Escalitopram

I finally decided to go to a walk-in clinic on November 23rd regarding my depression. This was a step I had been thinking about taking for a little while, but something in me held me back. I remember one time deliberately going to the area with the clinic instead of going straight home, but not being able to bring myself to walk in the door that night. I don't know what it was; maybe I was just wary of sitting in a potentially crowded waiting room that day.

Anyway, the doctor put me on a daily dose of 10mg of escalitopram and ordered blood work to rule out any other medical causes. It's still too early to know whether this is going to do the trick for me; it should kick in sometime shortly before Christmas (let's hope). I've been feeling a few of the side effects though, particularly the exhaustion: it's very rare for me to be able to stay awake too late after 9pm, though sometimes I will wake up in the middle of the night. For the most part I'm laying low while my body gets used to this, so there haven't been too many outings or nights out, and most of my weekends are spent in bed (my cat doesn't seem to mind this part). I'm still looking into my options regarding therapy.

I sought medical help because I was tired of the repetitiveness of what my life had become. My regular coping methods were band-aids at best, and not very good ones. My brain took the fun out of a party I had been looking forward to and kept me from making plans. I had evenings where I was a combination of drained and agitated, lonely but also feeling like interacting with other people was beyond my capabilities. I also felt that I owed it to the friends who continually encouraged me to take control of things by getting help; I worry I was frustrating them and letting them down the longer I let this drag on.

There's a glut of listacles online about the signs you have depression, anxiety or any other mental illness. I see the value in these, but I've always preferred to read people telling their own stories. It's one thing to see a list of symptoms, sometimes paired off with memes and gifs from movies, but there's something depersonalized about it all; it helps me more to know someone else is experiencing the same things I'm going through, to be able to connect the clinical stuff with impact it has on someone's individual life. Telling the story makes it more real.

I just want to have other stories to tell here beside this one.

Crossroads

I wonder if it's worth it to keep this site.

I used to blog for free, but decided a few years back that I needed to register the domain name for my writing and photography; I moved to my current provider when I decided that I need actual hosting for my photography.  I amalgamated my other blog where I did the SNL reviews into this one to better connect that work with the handful of Splitsider articles I wrote years back.

I don't know if I can fully justify the cost in keeping this space to myself, though.

The photography thing is mostly dead; I will shoot when a friend asks me for some quick headshots, but I've long abandoned any ambitions of being able to support myself with this line of work. Hell, I think the main reason why I tried to sell myself as a photographer was to justify spending money on a DSLR years ago while I was working at a call centre and trying not to resign myself to that life. As far as I'm concerned, this was play-acting.

I struggle to come up with interesting content for my writing. I often feel that having this space associated with my own name limits the type of content I feel comfortable posting, and I don't feel like whatever I have to say is much other than navel-gazing.  Right now my life is so monotonous and grey (see last post) that there really isn't much to write about when I actually feel up to stringing the words together. 

I wonder if it was a mistake to bring the SNL reviews onto my main domain. They're the main drivers of my site traffic, but I honestly feel like I've wasted the last 20 years of my life with this intense scrutiny of a TV show whose very nature makes a given episode hit-and-miss. Sometimes I actually resent doing these reviews. I watched the first three shows of the current season but found it harder to stay up through the whole show; if I'm too tired, I just won't bother tuning in, or will go to bed once the fatigue sets in. This is not a knock on the cast or writers, I just don't really feel much connection to the show anymore. I just feel like too much of an old man when watching the current show ("Who is that?" "What is that about?" "I don't know what they're making fun of"). Even when I tuned in this past weekend, when Eminem did a medley with "Stan", all I could think of was that he did that song on the show 17 years ago.  

I've abandoned, closed down, and deleted blogs and websites in the past. Even with this one, I've taken hiatuses from blogging (usually coinciding with work concerns taking priority or depressive spells). I still haven't made up my mind about this site, but I don't feel like the person who created it exists inside me anymore.

New Normal

I'm not going to mince words: I'm depressed.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this headspace, and I am fortunate enough to be functional enough to work, but for the last year or so, that’s it. I feel like it takes most of my energy and will to just trudge from the apartment to the bus stop, endure the commute to the office, make it through the work day without letting my façade of humanity slip, and ride back home (which is invariably a worse) commute before the brain inevitably cries “fuck this”. I still have good days where I’m able to feign sociability a bit better, and there are days where I’m drained and foggy before I even get home, but for the most part, I consider myself lucky if I manage to do something with my free time other than lie in bed with my phone.

Most days I’m just tired; sometimes I feel a physical weight dragging my limbs, as if they were moving through water or my body is operating on a slower speed than the rest of universe. My apartment is a mess because I don’t have the executive function needed to finish the chores I start, and I rarely feel the presence of mind needed to partake in my hobbies. It’s often hard for me to bother with reading or watching TV, like whatever I’m supposed to taking in gets blocked out by the fog. It’s hard to review an SNL in this state and harder to write when you’re aware that most of what you’re putting out is the same old shit.

There’s also a running commentary of noise that plays in my brain. There was a recent episode of Bojack Horseman that did a good job of simulating what it’s like to have that voice narrating your existence, second-guessing each decision that you make every day and reminding you of every failing that you’ve accumulated over a lifetime. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I can distract myself from it, but on bad days it gets to the point where I just can’t enjoy anything.

I still eat three meals a day regardless of appetite, but I often don’t feel the pleasure I used to get from my favorite foods, or it takes conscious effort to finish my meal. I try to browse bookstores or record shops but rarely buy anything; the running commentary tsk-tsks me for spending money to get a brief endorphin rush when I can’t even pretend it will fix the greater malaise. Sometimes I feel like my motivations for reading or listening to music are less than pure, born out of a desire to impress certain people more than an actual ability to appreciate the creative work.

The good conversations aren’t happening anymore. I just don’t feel like I have anything to contribute to the discussion, and I’m mostly just observing or eavesdropping instead of being good company. There are times I’m lucid enough to seek company, but a lot of the time I’m so far into my own head that when I’m with a friend, I feel too scrambled to really articulate what’s going on, or don’t feel it’s appropriate to wade beyond the surface level stuff or the dam will break. When I’m especially low, I often don’t even bother reaching out; something in my brain tells me that I’m in my rightful place, they’re in theirs, and any attempt I make at crossing over is trespassing, and any attempt to bring them into my world just drains them to the point of resentment. Am I really connecting on a deeper level or am I just unloading emotional labour?

Dating is also out; I know I’m not in a good place to get involved with anyone, and I don’t really have chemistry with most people; this is something I’ve learned to live with, but it’s gotten to the point that whenever I start feeling the slightest bit of attraction toward anyone, I panic and either try to ignore it or douse the spark. I figure it’s hard enough pretending to be a human for the day-to-day existence without having to market myself. I’m a bad liar, and I probably won’t be able to disguise that I don’t have faith in the product I’m selling. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to share a life with someone; I just don’t feel like I’m capable of the work needed for a healthy relationship.

I know there are people that care for me, that even love me, but sometimes I really don’t know if I can really absorb or return it properly.

I went through another bit of a depressive patch during a particularly bitter winter a few years ago, but back then I still had interests and vague goals, and I could shift the blame somewhat on tight finances and a precarious work situation; now that things have stabilized on the work front it’s become more apparent that my current low spell is deep-seated. It’s jumping from treadmill to treadmill these days; I’m “continuing” at best, keeping a status quo that doesn’t necessarily bring joy or lead anywhere. I’ve mentioned a while back that I don’t feel the same magic I used to from Halifax; the potential and possibilities I used to feel have faded away, and the more people that know me around here, the more boxed into my routine and identity I become.

There are small measures I’ve been taking to try to fight against this void. I try to make sure I get a little bit of daylight and exercise during my lunch break, and I have a few people that I feel comfortable discussing my emotional state with when I’m capable of stringing more than a few words together coherently. I’ve conceded that this is a medical thing that needs to be addressed soon; as much as I’ve been researching the best possible way to go about this, though, I still hesitate to take this step.

I don’t know what would make me happy, though. I’m scared that the answer will forever be outside my reach.

It's not you, it's me

I’ve been trying to come up with a personal blog post for a little while.  Maybe this comes with the trap of having an online space signed with your name, but I’m afraid of posting what I truly feel because I worry about how such a post will reflect on me.  Every time I consciously try to write something I end up generalizing things so much to the point where it rings false.

I write because I want to connect, and this is the way I tap into the part of myself that I have trouble accessing when face to face with someone, especially if I don’t know them well. That said, I sometimes feel as though whatever I put into the web and social media is just more static to be tuned out, especially in spaces at the mercy of algorithms and statistics. I wonder how often my writing becomes white noise as soon as my name’s attached.

Sometimes I go for months without talking to people, even if I consider them friends. It’s not personal animus so much as the feeling that I probably get more out of the relationship more than I’m able to give in return. I can enjoy someone’s company, but when I feel like I’m getting too close or that I’ve opened up too much to them, I instinctively back away for a while. I don’t want to be the guy people only put up with out of a sense of obligation, or worse, pity. My individual friends have their own lives and careers; some have partners and families. I don’t really trust my instincts on these matters, but if I sense a growing distance from someone or assume they need a bit of space, I would rather err on the side of consideration instead of becoming this draining, needy presence that people come to resent.

Over the years, there were brief flirtations with the idea of an active social life, filled with meaningful conversations over drinks and good food. It was a way to stretch out of my comfort zone and build new connections in what was an unfamiliar city. I kept wearing identities and disguises that turned translucent as soon as people became familiar with me, so I shrank away from every space that I felt like I was intruding. I’m not going to pretend that eating double quarter pounders at McDonalds by myself (the automated kiosks are great when you don’t want to talk to people) or binge-watching Cheers DVDs in my apartment is a fulfilling life, but it fits me better than the dance parties or activist galas.

Every now and then I tell myself I should probably make plans with someone I haven’t seen in person or talked to in a while, but worry that any connection that existed between us has long dissipated and the hard-won comfort I felt around them is gone. I admit to being a shitty friend; I’ve rarely invited company over and seldom initiate get-togethers. I just don’t know if I’m up to the work of sustaining friendships right now, and am not going to delude myself that I can handle anything closer than that.

When I withdraw, do people actually miss me, or do they miss the person they thought I was before they got too close to ignore the neuroses and character failures?

Absentee

Last summer, I offered pay-what-you-can portrait sessions; I did three of the ten promised shoots, edited one set, and then put my camera away sometime in late August, and haven't taken it out since.

At the time I attributed it to exhaustion from the readjustment to work, but sometime last fall, it became evident that I wasn't getting the same enjoyment from taking pictures as I used to. When I was working a temp agency job, I had hoped to supplement my meager income with photography work, but I quickly realized that I didn't have the same level of skill, comfort, and (most importantly) hustle as some of the other photographers I know in the city, so I decided to cede my ground.

I don't know when I'll be taking pictures again. I don't feel that I have the comfort level around other people needed for portraiture, and I'm sure my general tenseness bleeds into the shots. The times I relax, the shots are usually out of focus or improperly framed. Candid party photography is out of the question; I'm more comfortable doing photobooths, but those have a certain level of rigidity built in, even as the alcohol makes everyone loosen up.

I think there have always been ulterior motives behind my attempts to sell myself as a photographer. Money. Cachet. The opportunity to connect with people. It doesn't feel like I've really been able to take pictures for the sake of taking pictures in a long time, though, and I've hit a bit of a plateau in terms of enjoyment and technique. I post them for the hits on my webpage and the likes on my Facebook, but I don't think I really have anything to say with my work besides "I like getting attention". 


Around the same time, I abruptly postponed my SNL reviews. I was hoping to be done reviewing the 1984-85 season by this point, but as I was trying to compile my introductory remarks on the season, I just had a huge rush of "why am I doing this?" and realized that the amount of work I would have to put into each review would better be spent looking for better paying work, maintaining a social life (or trying to), and perhaps watching things that I haven't seen multiple times already.

I sometimes feel boxed in by my whole SNL fandom. It's been a big part of my life for the better part of the last 20 years (it really took off around the time the Comedy Network launched in Canada, with their twice-weekly chronological reruns of full length shows), but when I think about the amount of time and effort I've put into watching, researching, and chronicling a show whose history continues to expand, I ask myself "what am I doing this for, and at what expense?" I don't know what my endgame is. I do eventually want to get through 1984-85, but I can't see myself continuing with the reviews indefinitely, and I feel like I invest too much time and effort into something that's ultimately a niche hobby with a very specific audience.


Sharp-eyed readers will notice that I got rid of the last few "31 in 31" posts. I rarely delete blog posts, but these seemed to descend into repetition and whining after the tenth day or so (up to the point where I abandoned the project). Like with photography, I began to feel like my writing was motivated more out of a desire for attention than anything else. I was starting to run out of stories, and my pulling back from the world meant my brain was becoming an echo chamber for my various insecurities and neuroses. When I'm like this, I tend to pull back even further because I don't want to start draining people; I miss the closeness, but am too afraid of imposing or intruding on other lives, especially those that have considerably more to juggle than I do.

I honestly don't know what I have to say anymore. We're in scary times, and I think there are too many other voices that need to be shared more than mine (another white male). I don't feel especially connected to other people, but I feel even less connected to myself, and I don't think it's right to try to get too close to another person without a better idea of who I am.

The summer's gone, but a lot goes on forever

Leonard Cohen is gone. It was an inevitability, telegraphed by the man himself in recent months, but seeing the official status at the top of my Facebook feed was an unwelcome surprise tonight. Right now, it doesn’t feel much like the big loss I expected to feel; in a year that already claimed David Bowie and Prince, where voters in the UK and US legitimized hatred and resentment of the other, Cohen’s death almost seems anticlimactic. Just another light gone out after our eyes already adjusted to the darkness.

My introduction to him came via a country music station out of Selkirk, MB in the early 90s. They mostly played new country (Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, etc.), but had a few weekly shows outside the regular format, including one that played a lot of folk and bluegrass. It was that show that exposed me to John Prine and Emmylou Harris, and long before I knew his name, I remember hearing a spare and muted synthesizer-based track where a gravelly voice man invoked Hank Williams, women cooed scat vocals, and a ghostly piano played after every few verses. By the time I heard the song again a few years later during a family camping trip to Hecla Island, I knew Cohen’s name but not his work, more familiar with the exaggeratedly dour impression Roger Abbott did on Royal Canadian Air Farce than his words and music until my first year at Mount Allison University.

A borrowed greatest hits compilation was my first conscious exposure to Cohen’s music. It took; I bought I’m Your Man before the school year was out, and Songs of Leonard Cohen and Recent Songs over the summer. My friends Scott and Jay helped fill in some of the gaps of my Cohen appreciation (they also developed my fondness for tea and good beer). By the time I finished my degree, Cohen became one of the cornerstones of my music taste, and a bonding point with many friends. I’m not always in the mood to listen to him, but there have been many times I sought solace by quickly losing myself in his words.

I’m glad to be able to say I saw him in concert. He played the Scotiabank Centre (then called the Halifax Metro Centre) about six months after I moved to Halifax. The tickets were a birthday present from my younger sister, who came with me to the concert; they were cheap seats so we were all the way up in the nosebleeds, our eyes going back and forth between the action happening below and the screens projecting the close-up camera feeds. He was 78 at the time, but spry, seemingly growing younger from the point he skipped on stage for the first time, still able to kneel and climb back up many times during a multi-hour set. For all his reputation as a depressing artist, he exuded a lot of joy that night.

31 in 31: Day 10

Nocturne is this weekend; I went pretty much every year since I moved here. but it really peaked for me about three years ago. I don't really want to go out by myself (or run into people on the street when alone), but I don't really feel up to making plans with other people this week. It's a free event, so budget isn't a problem, but I just have this overwhelming feeling that art really isn't my thing, no matter how much I want it to be. I guess that makes me a dilettante.

I'm sitting on raw photos I shot in August when I did a "free photoshoot" offer. I'm not especially thrilled that I haven't finished editing them, but when I see what I shot, so little of it is salvageable. Too many out of focus shots. Part of me thinks it's because I'm using a cheapo Opteka portrait lens that won't focus properly at 1.8, but the poor craftsman blames his tools. It could just be my own eyes. I had hoped to supplement my income with photography, but I really don't think I have hustle, skills or tools to make it work right now, nor can I really afford to invest in the latter two. I've been wondering whether I actually enjoy photography, or just the validation that I get when I share the pictures.

I recently read Truth Is Fragmentary by Gabrielle Bell; it's a graphic novel of her travelogues and diaries, including daily comics for the month of July in three different years. There's quite a lot I identified with, particularly her insecurities and anxieties; the tendency to pull away from other people and get lost in the mess of one's own thoughts.

I have more I want to talk about, but I need Tylenol and rest.

31 in 31: Day 9

I got back into Halifax at about 10 last night; despite a small delay in Moncton, my bus ride was for the most part uneventful. The power was out in a lot of the city, though; the north end looked positively eerie as my bus crossed over the MacDonald Bridge, and the neighborhood around the bus terminal was dark as well. From what I could tell, my neighborhood wasn't affected in the least (it rarely has been in the four years I've lived there), and I came home to the sound of CBC Radio One and an attention-starved cat.

I fell behind on this whole 31-in-31 thing fairly quickly; I still intend to make up the posts by months' end, but I don't want to fall into the trap of just posting one sentence and publishing. I know that's closer to the spirit of the exercise than only posting when you have something substantial to write about, but I feel like I've been so mute lately that I want to use this spot to get back in touch with a part of myself that's become lost in the fog, especially whenever I tend to withdraw from people in the real world (today was one of those days).

31 in 31: Day 8

I didn't get around to writing a second post as I had expected yesterday. My first bus (from Halifax to Moncton) had wi-fi and outlets, but I was so cramped in my seat that it was very uncomfortable to have my laptop open, and I didn't want to accidentally jam my elbow in my seatmate's face. My second bus (Moncton to Fredericton) was roomier, but didn't have the wi-fi or the outlets. I rarely go west of Moncton anyway, so I wanted to see the unfamiliar stretches of the route.

I moved a lot when I was a kid, and when I was 8, my family moved from Nova Scotia to Manitoba. The second day of our trip ended with us in Fredericton, and to my younger self, that part of the trip seemed interminable. Some of the highways were realigned and renumbered in the past quarter century; the Trans-Canada is now a four-lane expressway all the way through New Brunswick, though the bus still has to go on the old alignment for part of the leg between Sussex and Fredericton. It's a beautiful country drive, but It's weird to think of that stretch as part of the main artery through the province until fifteen years ago.

I got into Fredericton at about 7:30, had dinner with my sisters, then we went to my friends' place. I've known Andrew since I moved to New Brunswick in 1999, and we've been in touch pretty much constantly since high school; he and I have a very similar sense of humor and a mutual appreciation for "second golden age" SNL (1986-91 or so). I hadn't seen him in person in about a year, and I don't think I had seen Christine (his partner) in about five. It was a good night, full of homemade wine, unconsecrated host cuttings, cheese, and a homemade adaptation of Cards Against Humanity with even more offensive and Canadian content. We ended up staying to watch SNL and didn't get back to my sisters' apartment until about 3 am.

My parents came down for Thanksgiving dinner today and after they left, my sisters and I watched the debate. It was an interesting contrast in body language between the two candidates; the way both handled the undecided voters' questions told volumes. Either way, I have a headache after watching the whole thing.

31 in 31: Day 7

This post is a little late. It could have been the two beers I had after work (which I needed this week). It could have been the news about Donald Trump that consumed my social media feed like a giant car wreck which everyone witnessed.

I may compensate for this short "marking time" post with another one later today, but I'll be travelling for most of of the day and have plans after I get to my destination.

31 in 31: Day 6

I've been up way too late all week. I've been napping more after work, and then trying to reclaim some of the lost productivity afterward; it's a bit of a backslide from being able to get to bed at around 11 pm for the last few weeks. I have to wake up at 6 in the morning to catch an early bus that I don't really need to take, and by the end of the day I'm usually in this fog of exhaustion.

I had a little more money than usual this week and have been spending too much on eating out. It may be a byproduct of my exhaustion, or I'm sick of what I can cook on my otherwise limited budget and culinary skills. I sometimes stop off at the liquor store to buy a single beer or cider; if I'm going to just have one, I don't really want to spend the money at a bar unless I'm there with another person. Of course, I end up not making plans with people because I don't think I can afford to, likely because I spent the money on the food and beer already. The cycle continues.

I've been having hypothetical conversations in my head. I catch myself making the gestures that go along with these conversations and wonder if some of the words are spilling out of my mouth.

31 in 31: Day 5

I try to dodge the ghosts whenever I can. It's nothing personal, but they raise too many questions with no right answers. I always have to be on guard for them; there are some spaces I'm certain they never inhabit, and there are some places where I won't go anymore whenever possible. It takes a lot of work and strain to always rejig travel arrangements to minimize run-ins, probably more than it's worth.

The encounters aren't so bad, but the lingering haunting is the rough part.

31 in 31: Day 4

Today started with a headache; I can't remember if I was on my usual vibrating bus on my commute, but I felt exhausted and gross pretty much all day. I wasn't really up to making small talk or anything like that (even less so than usual), and to be honest I kind of tried to move around undetected by acquaintances whenever I could (which is not really an option on one of the two floors I work on). Even the post work nap didn't have me feeling 100% tonight, though I managed to make it to vote in the municipal election online and watch the vice-presidential debate.

I downloaded Tinder, but I don't swipe right on anybody. I rarely swipe at all. It's mainly a curiosity thing at this point; dating's not really on the table until the other fronts stabilize. We'll see where this goes. 

My cat has taken to hopping onto the bookcase shelves whenever I sit at the laptop and don't pay enough attention to her. She does something similar whenever I'm asleep and she wants something from me. It's either that or she starts tearing apart anything on paper. Magazines, notebooks, flyers, that kind of stuff. I have to take precautions to make sure she doesn't wreck letters from friends or important documents. She's a little needy.

31 in 31: Day 3

I keep thinking back to a conversation I had a few years ago. I was visiting a friend in Moncton, and we both wistfully reminisced about some of the people from our university days; special relationships that just eventually faded, like our lives were individual orbits that came together at a specific time to provide something each needed, only to diverge again. I wish the detail and emotion of that whole night weren't as fuzzy as they are now, but I'm always going to remember how intimate and piercing that whole discussion was, and how fortunate I am to have had it.

The people who take me to that point are the ones I want to keep in my life.

31 in 31: Day 2

It's grey and rainy here in Halifax. Not really the kind of weather that has me wanting to go out with the camera or do much of anything. I also have to do laundry tonight, so in all likelihood today's going to be spent here in the apartment. 

There's nothing wrong with a day in by yourself. I seem to need this more often than others. My main problem is that social media tends to accentuate the whole "fear of missing out" thing, so lately I've been taking breaks from logging in, even going so far as to delete the apps from my phone. These periods don't last long, though. It just feels like I have very little to add to the conversation, and most of my posts seem to be YouTube links to songs I like, or things posted for attention and validation.

Today is my fourth anniversary of moving to Halifax. I'm not going out or having people here to celebrate the occasion this year. I'm grateful for the friends I've made here and would rather be here than in New Brunswick, but I'm starting to wonder if I'm ever going to get out of this precarious work "real life on hold" zone I've been in pretty much since I came here. I see all these pictures and posts from friends who packed up their lives and started afresh and wonder if I should I follow their lead, or if this is the highest level I'd be able to get to no matter where I live. I'd like to be able to experience this city from a place of stability before giving up on it.

I miss the version of myself that I was when I first moved here: a little less apprehensive, a little more open to experiences and exploration. I wonder how I can get back to that place again.

31 in 31: Day 1

Last year, I did an exercise where I forced myself to write a blog post every day for 30 days. There were days when I struggled to come up with content, but on the whole I was glad to have done it. I don't know what egged me on this time, but I figured I might as well force myself to post once a day for every day this month. Last year's run was "30 in 30"; since October has 31 days, this is going to be "31 in 31".

I didn't like September. August was exhausting, but I could at least blame the new job, and I managed to get a few photo shoots and social outings in during that month. September was considerably tighter, both in terms of finances and sociability. I was stuck in my head, couldn't really focus, and felt myself growing more distant from a lot of people over the last few weeks. Friends. Co-workers. I had the overwhelming feeling that I was working to prolong a status quo that stopped working for me two years ago instead of building the kind of life I wanted.

This feeling started almost as soon as the month began. I think I sensed it the day I reached out to my friend Laura and ended up going to her place for dinner, beer and a movie. We discussed the need for risk and willingness to let one's self get hurt in order to find happiness, but my margins are too thin for that right now. When I went to a housewarming on Labour Day, my thoughts distracted me too much to give myself over to the spirit of the party. I had patio beer, went to a food truck rally, and saw George Elliott Clarke speak at the Word On The Street festival, but I was preoccupied with career frustrations and overthinking the connection I felt with someone a while back. This drained me.

I had won tickets to the Atlantic Film Festival closing night party, but almost immediately after winning them, I had second thoughts about going; combined with a lack of money for drinks and the 40-minute bus rides each way, it became less appealing the more I thought about it. Whatever half-assed attempt I made at finding a taker for the extra ticket was more along the lines of "someone needs to drag me out of my apartment" than genuine interest in going. In retrospect I probably should have refused them, but I picked them up just in case I were to change my mind. I eventually tried to find takers for both tickets, but eventually just tore them up and threw them in the garbage. If I had gone to some of the screenings, had something decent to wear, and didn't have to take practical matters into consideration, it may have been fun, but I just had the feeling I would have felt awkward and out-of-place all night.

If September's theme was my thoughts crowding things, activities and people out of my life, I hope October's involves making space for them again.

The overthinker

I've been lost in my own head for the last little while.

My thoughts start to crowd in on themselves, and block whatever part of my brain is supposed to control the rest of my body. I can't fully see or hear what's going on around me as my brain does a persistent running commentary or generates a number of imagined conversations. My arms become these two weights; I have some control over my fingers, but lifting them and getting them to hit the right keys quickly sometimes takes a conscious effort. Your words take a few more seconds than usual to reach through this haze. Maybe touch registers more quickly.

It's a little lonely in here, but I don't feel like I have the space for anyone else right now. I can't fully articulate what's on my mind because the sheer number of these thoughts have caused them to turn into a steady stream of white noise jamming whatever connection I'm trying to make. When this happens, I may furtively toss a few lines out but usually end up pulling back even further. Ideas and feelings don't seem real beyond the static.

This isn't permanent, but the exit seems to materialize as randomly as the trap that pulled me in.

Sweater weather

I'm at the library. The sun is out, but it's no longer warm enough to justify a T-shirt and shorts. I'm reluctant to wear the shorts anyway as my waist size is a little smaller than it was when I first bought them. I think I overestimated my girth at the time. The process of clothes shopping has never been my favorite and I end up relying on gifted shirts and pants. It's probably about time to get some new clothes either way. Nothing really seems to fit anymore.

My friend told me a little while ago that I'm always looking for others' advice on what I should do, instead of just doing what I want. Maybe I don't feel like a decision is justified unless I get enough positive feedback. Is this insecurity or conditioning? Am I a pet that's waiting for the command, then the "good boy" and treat afterward? It always feels like I'm waiting for something. It's hard to just do what you want when you don't know what that is anymore, and you're more concerned with keeping your life running than taking it anywhere.

I'm lost in a "Yacht Rock" playlist on Spotify right now, trying to follow my train of thought. I remember recording a lot of these songs from an AM radio station in Winnipeg. I had to sit through hours of Michael Bolton and Celine Dion to get to them, but the older songs always stood out. Maybe there was a melodic quality to them I enjoyed, or the smooth production that contrasted against the mid-90s hip-hop and grunge imitations. There was a lot of music that came out of that time I've grown to appreciate, but back then I stayed in smoother waters. The university students that descended on the city in the past week weren't even born when I made those tapes. But I wasn't born when a lot of these songs came out either.

The city feels too small sometimes. The familiarity is starting to drive a lot of the magic away; it becomes background noise. Maybe that's normal when a place becomes your home.

It's still hard to write about feelings

I relate so much to this comic that Kelly posted a few days ago. I relate to a lot of her work, but that one really depicts so many of my current struggles.

I've wanted to write a blog post for a little while. It would usually happen that a number of my friends would all update their blogs at the same time, and I would want to post something just so I would have fresh content to link to whenever I left a comment, but I'm going through another bit of a case of writer’s block. Writing SNL reviews is relatively easy, but the personal blog portion has been a challenge.

I don’t like it when my writing gets so vague and generalized that I’m doing a bad imitation of an academic paper, but I’m a little concerned about bleeding too much onto the page on a public space that’s marked with my real name. I wonder how Elan, AJ or Anne manage this balance. How far inside yourself do you need to reach to develop your voice, to be able to frame your personal experiences in a way that resonates with others? I love when a blogger writes things that I relate to on a deep level, but I'm too guarded to be able to achieve this in my own writing. 

I'm settling back into a regular routine. I'm still not getting enough sleep but I'm at least able to get to bed a little bit earlier than I had been. Money's still a little tight on the temp wages, but it at least gets me from month to month (for the most part), and an extra paycheque in August meant I was able to grab drinks with friends a couple of times while it was still patio beer season. I'm a little distrustful about posts that try to put a positive spin on every situation. Life is nowhere as pat as that, which is also why I hate so many cheery memes, but things are better than they were two months ago, at least on that front.

There are a few other changes I'm still trying to navigate, though. I'm no longer sure about a lot of things, least of all what I really want. About a year and a half ago, I realized I felt something that I wasn't ready to feel; as much as I consciously shied away from getting to that point, it caught me completely by surprise. I fought it, but to be honest, I think the resulting mental friction caused by my resistance made things worse. This whole experience has left me feeling vulnerable in a way I haven't been in the last 15 years, and tore through a lot of the definitions and defenses I've built for myself throughout my adult life.

Maybe I needed this to break me open, or maybe the heart is just dumb as shit. (A few of my friends will attest to the latter, usually with the curse "fucking feels."). I usually attempt to get through most things unscathed, even though anyone who tries as a life strategy generally doesn't get anywhere. I don't have any idea what this all means, though. It's hard to come up with conclusions when you're still trying to make sense of it all.

First week

I'm back among the ranks of the employed. It's another temp gig, but I'm glad to be earning money again instead of trying to make ends meet on EI (It's not fun). 

What I wasn't expecting was how exhausting it was to return to work after a long period of time unemployed. I tried to turn the job hunt into a little bit of a job in itself, complete with a frustratingly long bus commute, but I didn't really keep regular hours to search and apply. Without drastic consequences for not waking up early the next morning, my night owl tendencies took over, usually aided and abetted by a friend that normally chats with me online around midnight. 

Waking up's the easy part. I have the alarm clock set for 6, which gives me enough time to make breakfast, pack lunch, shower and get dressed before I head out to catch the bus. I usually try to get the first express route I can, since the quickest way downtown via bus still goes through two bottlenecks (the Windsor Street exchange and the part of Gottingen Street in front of the navy base); while the traffic's not bad during the summer, once the schools and universities are back in session for the fall, the extra cars on the road are going to slow things down, not to mention what usually happens once Halifax gets its winter weather. I get off at Scotia Square and walk all the way down Barrington Street to Spring Garden Road, then get a cheap cup of coffee from one of the merchants in the basement of my office building. The exercise and caffeine usually help me power through the day. 

By the time I get home, though, my lack of sleep from the previous night catches up with me, and I usually crash not too long after I get back to the apartment. When I wake up again, I have to think about making dinner and some of the things I want to accomplish that night, whether it's photo editing, watching something on Netflix or Shomi, finishing a reply to my friend's email, or writing a blog post. I sent a few texts and IM messages to friends this week, but didn't have the energy or mental focus for an extended conversation. I try to get myself to bed earlier, but I find it hard to go to sleep unless something in my to-do list has been accomplished, no matter how trivial, and if I sleep too long immediately after coming home, it's harder for me to sleep at night.

I have a few other things I want to balance besides working, eating and sleeping, so it's a little disconcerting for all my energy to be spent on the bare minimum effort required to do that. 


My new-found employment also means there's a narrower window in which I would be available to do the portrait shoots. I'm available all day during the weekends, but for obvious reasons my weekday shoots would be limited to after 4:30, with some travel time figured in from downtown Halifax to wherever the shoot is. For weekday shoots, I will also need to confirm the shoot the night before so I remember to bring my camera to work (otherwise, I lose at least an hour of time going home to get it and coming back).

In addition to my promised free shoots (five best photos edited), I'm offering discounts for the rest of the summer: full sessions (one hour or so of shooting time, five edited photos) are available for $60 (down from my usual fee of $100), while mini-sessions (1 edited head and shoulders shot) are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested payment of $25 (beer and food also accepted in lieu of money). If I don't know you that well, I also find it helps to spend about a half an hour talking beforehand to dispel some of the nervous energy that comes from meeting new people.

If you're interested in booking a shoot, send me a line and we'll work something out.