my backwards walk

i don’t want be a bad woman
and i can’t stand to see you be a bad man. 
i will miss your heart so tender
and I will love this love forever.
– cat power

when i left m for the last time, i had this song on repeat for hours, and days, and months.

…it was my anthem. my reason. the only explanation i could justify in finally separating myself from the only life i knew. everything he touched turned to shit. he made me a bad woman by proxy. by the end of the four (worst) years (of my life), i didn’t recognize myself anymore. my family could barely speak to me, and i had severed ties with so many friends only so i could keep my secrets to myself. so i wouldn’t have to explain the bruises, or the holes in the wall, or the destroyed belongings, or why i felt like drinking every single fucking day. it wasn’t only to numb the pain, or to forget. i drank because when i was drunk, i felt alive- something i hadn’t felt in years. it was superficial, of course… but i felt it none the less. i was social, and i laughed, and i would dance, and i made friends, and broke hearts, and i would exude confidence that had been shattered by m.

when i met him, i thought i had fallen in love with my future husband. the man who was going to father my children, and make me breakfast in bed on mother’s day, and spend time with my family, and take care of me when i was ill. i thought our story would stand out, not because of its horror, but because of its beauty. its simplicity. i thought it would stand out because it was special. and it was- at first. it was all of those things, and so much more than i could possibly explain.

i was barely sixteen years old when i saw his darkeyes, and cotton candy pink lips for the first time. he was waiting for a bus, and our eyes locked for a few seconds, and i felt the wind get knocked out of my lungs. this man (so young then) was so quiet- leaning against a wall, smoking cigarettes, his entire body covered in tattoos. my heart stopped, and my palms got sweaty, and i had made up my mind- right then and there- that i was going to have this man. it was a feeling so fierce, i could barely shake it.

our paths didn’t cross for another five months.

and it was the end of my life as i knew it.

had i known then, what i knew now- i’d have trusted my gut.

… but i’m a heart girl, through and through, and although it’s been wrong (time and time again), i followed this coffee-haired, black-eyed, beautiful (so goddamn beautiful) stranger. we followed each other at a party- watching each other from the corner of our eyes, touching hands when we spoke, whispering into each others ears over the music. he had a mohawk, and i could taste the vodka on his tongue when we kissed that night.

that’s how i like to remember him, unfortunately. pure, and young, and gentle. the way he would hold my hand, or touch my lower back when we spoke, or the way he would kiss me- all day, every day. the first time he’d see me, and between sentences, before leaving. he’d kiss my mouth, and my forehead, and my hands, and my eyes. he’d kiss me just to kiss me. his voice, so sweet and so low- almost a whisper. and we made love, believe it or not. he would light dozens of candles in the basement, and we’d kiss every inch of each others’ body. we’d touch and take our time, and really love each other. he’s the only person i’ve ever done that with, actually. he’d drive me home, late at night… holding hands, and kissing at stop lights. he would run my baths, and make me breakfast in bed all the time. he would wash my hair in the shower, and take pictures of me all the time. he’d leave love notes by the bed, and he’d draw me pictures, and write me letters. he’d buy me cards- just because. he would tell me he loved me every single day. we’d lay on the beach in silence, for hours. we’d take walks, and shower together every morning.

he loved me…

a lot. he loved me harder, and stronger, and better than any man has ever loved me in my life. without question, or condition, or doubt. he lived for me- he told me every day that he lived for me. it’s difficult to be loved like that, so young in your life. to be sixteen years old and feel like i knew what the next fifty years of my life would look like- that i’d be this lucky in love for the rest of my life… and then have it ripped from me.

he changed over night.

i look back now… i dig deep for signs, or red flags. and i just can’t find them anywhere. i look back on the first year of our relationship, and i am shattered by confusion. this man- this young, incredible man who loved me, and cared for me, and took care of me every single day… he woke up one morning hating me. hating our life. hating the simplicity of our love and companionship. he woke up fiending for drugs, and wanting to fuck strangers, and taking out his aggressions on me- the only woman who loved him the way i loved him. and that struck me harder than his fist ever did- the way his heart loved me still, but his actions didn’t. the things he would say to me… i can’t even wrap my head around it sometimes.

just the thought of our bed
makes me crumble like the plaster
where you punched the wall beside my head
– ani difranco

i stayed for three years longer than i should have.

out of fear, out of survival, out of naivety and guilt. and when i finally left, i never mourned the loss. i celebrated the victory. after a few weeks of drinking myself to sleep, forgetting to eat and shower, and not even stepping foot outside of my own bed… after weeks of anguish and fear, i finally celebrated. i celebrated for days, and then weeks, and months, and years. i spent so much time being angry, that i forgot to be sad. i spent so many years celebrating the funeral of a monster, of the demon that was our poisonous relationship… that i forgot to feel pain and sadness over the loss of the year i’d spent with the m who loved me. i forgot to mourn the loss of my first love. the loss of the baby we almost had together. the loss of the life we’d started to build. the loss of my dignity, and self-respect, and confidence- things i am still working on, years later… trying desperately to rebuild.

i don’t know why it’s surfacing now- why all this pain has boiled over, and why i feel disconnected again. i don’t know why i feel the need to mourn now that i am finally safe, and happy, and healthy- trying to put my pieces back together after being derailed. but it’s happening and i can’t control it anymore. i can’t help but feel angry that my first love was lost, and that i’ll never have anything good to say about him. i can’t help resenting him. i can’t help resenting myself and the decisions i made not to have our baby, or build my own life with that child- safe from her father and his demons. and don’t get me wrong- i’m happy with every choice i’ve ever made when it comes to m… i didn’t have the tools then to understand what abuse was, or how to escape it. all i knew was that i needed to save myself, and it’s only when i was finally ready to be without him that i gathered the courage to stand up to him, and walk away forever.

and it makes me sick, you know… to feel sad over this. to miss (the beginning of) that love.

but now that the shock has worn off, and the anger has subsided… i’m left with this incredible sadness, and self-pity. i’m overwhelmed by anxiety and confusion. and i never want this space to be censored. i hope writing about m won’t ever stop feeling cathartic… but there are some stories i’ve burried so deep inside of me- certains things i’ve never had the courage to share, or the words to even describe things that happened- and i need now (more than ever) to purge those stories from inside of me. to rid them from my bones, and shove them in a metaphorical bag, and then set that bag on fire. i need to share my truths with a professional, so i can get some closure, finally.

real closure- not the kind where i tell everyone i’m okay, and i belittle him as a human being, and share his indecensies… i mean real closure, and healing, and finally closing a book that has been open for seven goddamn years. and i realise that a lot of my behaviours in life (and love) stem from surviving abuse- but i can’t let those behaviours define my relationships any longer. i can’t let my secrets dictate my happiness, or my future.

i just forget what that kind of blissful happiness feels like. i feel like i got the private screening to the unatural, disturbing ways of the human race, and i’m rattled. i’ve seen too much, and i’ve felt too much, and i know too fucking much about what it feels like to be torn apart at the hands of a bad man. and that makes me incredibly, and unforgivingly sad…

and i want to fix that.

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self worth

human skin can be hard to live in

– seabear

 

i’ve been having a hard time.

don’t get me wrong- i’ve been having an incredible summer and a hell of a good time with my friends, and family… from mexican fiesta themed bachelorette parties, to family picnics by the waterfront, to barbecues and slumber parties, and more ladies’ nights and living room dance marathons than i can even count. i have the most amazing support system- the constant emails and phone calls from my mum & pops, the text messages from my brother, the goodness in my friends’ hearts and their willingness to give and to love and to be there for me… i can’t even wrap my head around it sometimes. a friend dropped in last night to give me oral numbing gel for my tooth ache because he knew my EI money hadn’t come in yet and he couldn’t stand the idea of me sitting around, doing nothing about the pain i was in.

that’s the kind of people i have in my life.

and i am so grateful for them, for this time off, for the strength i had in myself to finally make these changes in my life.

but i am still struggling.

sometimes i have to remind myself that i’ve come a long way. that i escaped a dangerous life with an awful man and survived his abuse and our lifestyle. without a penny in my pocket, or a chance in the world- i dusted myself off, and set off to build a new, healthy life. i got an excellent job with zero experience and no education, hopped from house to house until i found a safe place to call home- all while keeping my head above water. not a single person knew of my struggles because i wouldn’t show my scars. “i am strong, i am independent, i can do this”- this is how i got myself out of bed in the mornings. i was barely eighteen years old.

and i get it, you know.

i’m an easy target.

i’m young, i have fucked up one hell of a lot, i have put my family through torture and hell, i am covered in tattoos, i struggle with money, i have been pulled from my own bed- pulled from depression and drinking, and i’ve been told to fucking smarten up and be a real human being because this life business is HARD.

despite all of the bullshit, though… at least i could always say i was capable. i was capable of a good life, with healthy people, and a nice house, with good furniture. and i had a job.

jesus christ, i had a job!

a job i could keep, a job i was good at, a job that allowed me to fully furnish the houses i’d been hoping to and from. a job that allowed me to eat, and play, and be a real adult for the first time in fucking ever.

wait, adults say “in fucking ever”, right?

whatever.

i am not struggling with the time off, or the copious amount of naps i have been allowing myself to take in the middle of the afternoon, thank you very much.

i’m struggling with the lack of income, and what that has done to my independence.

i am no charity case. and although i love surprises and dates and all that fun stuff… i don’t like when people feel obligated to pay for me. i was perfectly capable of paying for my movies, or my food, or my antibiotics, or my mothers’ birthday presents. but when i can’t participate in menu items for a cottage weekend getaway, or i have to skip out on certain activities because my bank account is at -$7.32, and i have one toonie left in my wallet, and i’m wondering how the actual fuck i’m going to eat next week because i still don’t have a clue as to when EI will come in… that scares me.

and i’m brought back to a place where i don’t like being.

to the attic apartment of 148 breezehill avenue, where i am barely seventeen, and i haven’t eaten in weeks, and my junkie boyfriend is out on a binge, fucking the girls from the shop, and leaving me to fucking die. a place where i am sitting in the corner of the living room, under a wall of broken plaster, listening to ani difranco on repeat, trying to get the courage to finally call my mother and ask her to save me.

i know that isn’t the case, anymore. but the thought of not knowing, and starting from scratch again… it scares the living shit out of me.

as for these last few days… i have to laugh off the bullshit comments about being a punk rock warrior. i have to try not to be offended when people are shocked if i turn down an opportunity to drink when the cold, wet cans are staring me straight in the face. and i have to get over this whole idea that leaving my job was a bad move. i have to shrug off the comments about my relationship with dan going down the shitter…

but here’s the thing.

fuck everyone.

(adults can say that too, right?)

yeah, fuck ’em.

i’m not sorry.

i’m not sorry i fucked up with m. i’m not sorry for a single tattoo on my body. i’m not sorry the drinking was a problem, for years. i’m not sorry my relationship with dan ended, and he had to move out, and i’m not sorry i was still fucking him after we broke up. i’m not sorry that i’ve had moments of weakness, of desperation, of chaos, or sadness. i’m not sorry for quitting my job. i’m not sorry for being fucking human.

here’s the thing with acceptance and self-worth.

i’m fucking horrible at it.

a good friend made a joke at my expense, and how did i deal with it? i came home, took off my tights, turned off the lights, blasted daniel johnston super loud, and fucking bawled my eyes out for an hour.

ADULT LIFE!

i’m not used to this. i’m not used to dependence or zero income, or feeling this helpless. it’s awful, and it’s fucking with my head, the way it fucked with my head then. the freedom was incredible, at first. i sat in the park, blowing bubbles, drinking beer from a coffee cup, watching my friends play street frisbee at midnight, dancing until 4 in the morning, going to the beach all day, having iced green tea in summer dresses at two in the afternoon at my favourite coffee shops, drinking mimosas with breakfast, stuffing my face with pretty people at restaurants’ soft openings, chatting all afternoon on the porch…it’s been so liberating.

and now i’m all, “fuck”.

because the money is gone, and so is the glamour, et all.

along with my confidence & independence.

and so now, i wait.

for money. for an epiphany. for a job opportunity that will blow my socks off.

post script:

i am no longer fucking my ex-boyfriend. he returned my glasses, and i gave him back his computer, and we haven’t spoken in days, and i am feeling free and happy and strong. i know now, more than ever, that i want a future- and it most certainly isn’t with him. am i mourning the loss of my best friend in the entire world? hell yes. will i get over it? totally.

on, and up.

 

casa del vaginal anarchy

here’s the thing about living with girls when you’re an adult:

HOLY SHIT, IT’S AMAZING!

coming from someone who has never really enjoyed living with other human beings, this comes as a total shock. but i mean it- maybe it’s because i’ve known katie for ten years, and the shit we found funny when we were kids are still just as hilarious today. maybe it’s the fact that neither of us have actually matured since we got our first period, or that dick jokes and fart noises still have us roaring in stitches on the floor…

maybe it’s because ten years ago, i looked like this:

and katie looked like this:

so absolutely every other joke we make is about anarchy, and feminism, and making fun of how stupid we looked, and how awesome our childhoods were. i’m so lucky to be where i am- that after a gut-wrenching breakup with the man i wanted to spend the rest of my life with, i get to share a home with someone i grew up with. someone who knows me, and gets me, and who paints my nails when i watch criminal minds and cooks me fish for dinner after bootcamp.

WE ARE LIVING THE ASEXUAL DREAM, Y’ALL.

i was really, really worried about how i would adjust to roommate life after not having roommates in over a year. how i would adjust to other people’s CRAP in MY HOUSE. but the fact is this: everything is perfect. her stuff “goes” with my stuff… we love the same things, we appreciate art and vintage and punk rock bands we’re still in love with. she’s an excellent cook, and she has a heart the size of the planet. and what was once me and dan’s house, turned MY HOUSE, has now transitioned so seamlessly into our house.

also dubbed casa del vaginal anarchy.

BECAUSE OI OI, FEMINISM, FUCK YOU.

etc.

it’s the summer, internet. i have two days of work left before i run out of here with my shirt above my head, boobs out, screaming SPRING BREAK. the first real break i’ve give myself since i graduated high school and spent days broke, hungry, and crying in me and m’s apartment, waiting for him to come home.

fucking crazy, right?

half the women in my life are either married, pregnant, engaged, or happily co-habitating with their lovers. and considering just a few months ago i had already picked out me and dan’s wedding song, and peed on a stick because i totally thought we’d accidentally gotten pregnant and the first thing that popped into my head was “well, at least we love each other”- considering how fucking insane that sounds and how long ago that seems and how sad and lonely that makes me feel… all those things considered- i’m okay.

there’s something to be said for the strength and support the women in my life have given me. i am constantly laughing, having fun, drinking wine, being productive and carefree and so overwhelmed by how big my heart feels.

this must be one of the best places i’ve been (emotionally) in my life. maybe it’s the season, or the fact that i will soon have time to go to the beach, read in the park, nap IN THE AFTERNOON ON A WEEKDAY (holy shit, what does that even feel like?!), spend time with my night owl friends who work evenings, who fucking knows… i feel so LIMITLESS!

i have a movie date tonight, bootcamp this week, my friend’s champagne 30 birthday party on thursday, a BBQ & potential baseball game on friday, and one of my favourite bands is playing a local venue next tuesday- so many fun summer activities almost every single day of the week. how do i even have time to feel sad?

in other news… katie’s dog finnegan ate up my $300 hugo boss frames, so i bought two new pairs:

SUMMER LOVIN’ !!!

not ever like it was

for a long time i wanted to leave this city.

i wanted to pack up everything i own, hop a bus to my favourite place, and forget. i wanted to work easy jobs, and live in tiny little apartments with my best friends, and finally let go. i was living alone, then. sitting on a fence between wanting so badly to leave, and managing my emotions enough to stay.

that’s always been my problem. it was never indecision or nerves. i wasn’t scared to fall off the map, no. i was afraid to sever the ties for the last time. i was scared i wasn’t independent enough, or happy. i was scared i’d make all these big plans, and have them crumble at my feet. i was frantically searching the internet for little apartments i could share with my friend. a place we could lay around in our underwear, reading comic books and listening to dykie folk rock. a place where we could wall-paper the bathroom, he and i. a place where i’d cook and we’d read books, and watch old films, and things would finally just be quiet.

because that’s just the thing with 2009 and the year i lived alone. the silence was so deafening, i surrounded myself with noise. there were always records spinning, or the tv blaring, or friends in my bed drinking wine from the bottle. and when i left him, finally and i couldn’t even muster the courage to put on some fucking pants and leave the house to buy groceries, the static and noise of the blatantly obvious became too much. the empty bottles of liquor scattered in every room, the cat litter over-flowing in the kitchen, or the piles of dishes i hadn’t touched in months. i didn’t have to worry about the dirty laundry on the floor because i couldn’t remember the last time i had clothes on my back.

christmas rolled in, and it was the first time i’d bought a real tree. january came and went as fast as february and by march i no longer had a fir, but a weeping willow. my father eventually came to my rescue- removing the decorations and storing them carefully as i sat quietly on my sofa. he dragged that thing through the kitchen and out the back door, and the only thing remaining was a trail of green needles.

it kills me to think of that, now.

by spring i’d come alive again- the weather and the hum in my heart had made it possible to breathe. i was still hiding his secrets- flushing his drugs when he asked me to, and crying silently when he’d leave. it all seemed new and yet so, so fucking the same. i guess it was the first time in four years that he’d been honest about the poison he’d been snorting and the people he’d been seeing in the nighttime. maybe that made it easier. he was so open about his indecencies. i was so young then- so naive. i would carefully unfold the foil, staring so angrily at this white powder, before i’d flush it down the toilet, again.

i didn’t have many words then, but i just remember thinking “how?” , over and over. how could he possibly choose these four bumps over us? over our lifestyle? over the family we nearly started- the family i was so quick to destroy, so quick to give up on.

…i could feel my heart pounding in my chest so hard i could hear it- the ringing in my ears blocking out his sobs from the other room. i remember laying there for hours after wondering when the fuck it would get quiet again.

in the years we’d been friends, and the months we’ve been dating, dan and i have never gone to the movies together. aftera particularly angry blowout on friday (where i’d been accidentally locked out of the apartment for over two hours without shoes or my phone), he’d promised me a date. a few friends joined us on a double-date as we walked the quiet streets last night. we live in the heart of the city, and yet by dusk on sundays, the streets are deserted. it’s my favourite part about living here. dan paid for our tickets as i bought us the biggest bag of popcorn they had- dan whispering to me, making sure i was asking for extra butter, “the real stuff!”, he kept saying. we saw a particularly gory movie, that had us roaring in laughter (as i hid behind my own hands). he kept rubbing my leg, or kissing my head- right on the temple. i close my eyes when he does that. i can’t help but get sentimental when he’s so gentle, like that.

“this is our first movie together!” he eagerly whispered, as the lights dimmed. i nodded and smiled the kind of smile only he can effortlessly get from me.

we walked home in separate directions- he was going to meet with a friend, and i was going to collapse into bed. i had forgotten my ipod at home, next to our bed, so i walked quickly, hands in my pocket. the final stretch of the long street before turning onto ours seems so much longer than it really is. i slowed my pace only briefly before being so thankful for dead of night. not a car in sight, unless it was parked. the yellow dim of the street lamps accentuating everything so perfectly. the leafless trees motionless, like skeletons.

i used to look over my shoulder at every sound, every footstep behind me. but things are different now- they’ve changed.

i exhaled a long, audible sigh, as i smirked and thought of a line from one of my most favourite comics…

(…) i should be scared or angry, the newsfeed says, but the sky is so empty and quiet and beautiful.

i finally, finally feel safe here.

sink vs. swim

do you ever miss it?

i don’t know, really. yes? no? of course not. sometimes. obviously.

it fluctuates, i guess. with my mood, with the season, with my fucking outfit. sometimes i look in the mirror and i’m startled by its reflection. when did i become so tired? or when did i learn to smile again? it’s weird, i guess, to be wrapped up so tightly in a world of wretchedness and hide it so well. i don’t know how i could flee with such ease- how i could disconnect like that.

maybe i was young- it was so easy to fall and get wrapped up and just… be with someone. but things happened and i escaped myself and i may have just been a shell of a person- someone i once was. someone i’d never be again. maybe i glorified all those meaningless fucks because i wanted, more than anything, for them to be more than that. i wanted to prove (to myself) that i was capable of love again. not being in love. just… loving. i knew how, i thought. and it didn’t matter with who, i just needed to settle this bet with myself.

but his skin felt different, and his neck wasn’t comforting and i closed my eyes if he looked at me. i was sure not to touch his face, his shoulders, his chest, his hands- nothing that would connect us. i knew how to fuck without love. and i got better at it as time went on. hike your skirt and don’t look back.

men like that, right? when you drink them under the table, pound shots back while you’re dancing. when you have no fucking limits, no end. at some point, i couldn’t even tell when the night began or when the sun rose. i became so drunk off power, off lust, off getting away with all of it. i was secretive enough to keep them on their toes, yet open enough to have them back for more, if i wanted to. it became easy, i became cocky. they were afraid of me. i’d become a fucking liability because no one wanted to hurt like that. no one wanted to push those limits or feel so awful day after day. my body became my own punching bag, and i grew accustomed to the pain…

rolling out off someone (anyone)’s couch at dawn, naked and frazzled. my kidneys in so much pain i couldn’t even cough. stumbling through hallways to a bathroom so i could shit my fucking brains out, hack up a lung, and whimper in the shower. cracking a beer for breakfast. chewing gum all day to mask the taste of malt liquor. fighting the fatigue, fighting the urge to sleep forever because i knew then that if i’d give in, i’d give up forever. one more night, i’d say.

it lasted years.

how? fuck if i know.

and don’t get me wrong… some of my best memories were created during those times- during the better days, with better people. but i have this way of spiralling out of control so fast i lose my grip almost entirely. and yeah, you know, there will always be a part of me that will feed off the ecstacy of that lifestyle. and i will still have totally out of control crazy nights, sometimes.

but i think i’ve changed.

in some ways, at least. how could i not? it became a matter of life or death, job or unemployment, food or starvation, love or hate. it was either get healthy and grow up or fall off the map forever. because no one wants a broken girl like that; damaged goods. no one wants a fucking drunk for a girlfriend, for a daughter, for a friend.

and maybe dan did have a small part in helping me. he wanted so badly to be good again, to find some sort of common ground. when we were just friends, he would escape to the comforts of my living room and sleep in my bed and eat my casseroles. and without even realizing it, we were living the lifestyle i’d always wanted, deep down. the lifestyle i wasn’t comfortable sharing with anyone else.

so when i was sitting in my friend’s living room, eating the shepherds pie we’d just made from scratch, and talking about her due date… and she asked me, quite boldly do you ever miss it? , my initial instinct was to respond, without faulter, no. no fucking way.

and i guess i’d been mulling it over because, really, fuck it’s easy to let go… but i haven’t wavered. the answer is still no. this lifestyle i have, with these people in my life, and the job i work hard at, and the bills i pay (on time, no less), and the expensive furniture i finally own, and the effort i am putting into my home with dan… this is living. and i may shiver when i take my first sip of beer of the week, and i may still get a little giddy when i get afternoon drunk on a sunday, but it’s getting better. it’s definitely gotten easier. and i think that’s what’s important.

i don’t need to be black-out drunk to take my pants off in front of my boyfriend. and i don’t need to eat once a day to sustain life- i can cook and plan meals and enjoy dinners with my family and friends. and i don’t need to force myself to feel any sort of emotion, because with dan, it comes as naturally as breathing. as blinking. it just is.

and maybe that’s what scares me, sometimes. here i am, just being. and i’m okay with it. and i’m falling in love with it, even. i don’t have to worry about anyone’s intentions or the burden of fucking being alive because i actually have purpose now. and it’s a tough place to be, when i realize the last few years of my life have been some fucking bullshit ride i wanted off of- a rollercoaster i just kept riding because i had no other choice, i didn’t know any other options.

but that friend… the one who always asked me how i was doing, who always flat out questioned my sobriety any time we talked… she created a life. this perfect, tiny, healthy baby girl… and she’s changed everything. everyone around me is getting married, or having babies, moving in with their significant others, or packing up to start somewhere fresh together. it’s beautiful. here i was, thinking we were just a bunch of fuck ups, a bunch of punks having a good time. and it’s like the seasons changed and we’ve all started building our own families. my old roommate, skinhead jesse, is flying halfway across the country to make hundreds of thousands of dollars so he can buy his girlfriend a house in a year. so he can marry her and they can have babies in the city. jesse fucking germs wants to be a man. he wants to build a life and be a father… and the best part? he’d be amazing at it.

these last few days… spent renovating my new home, and spending time with my close friends who are all doing the same sort of things… i’ve just fallen completely in love with this city again. with my friends and our new lifestyles and where we’re headed.

because for the first time, man, we’re fucking headed somewhere.

and dammit, does that ever feel good.

in which my heart breaks

* this entire post is about money and relationships and oh my god i’m crying again.

up until a few years ago, my parents never had a penny. they never furthured their education in college (until very recently), and they didn’t have outstanding jobs. my mother worked her way through administration jobs, and my father bounced between sales and management positions. and although i later found out that they were constantly worried about their ability to pay their mortgage on time, or have enough food in the house to feed our family of four, my brother and i had no idea how hard they struggled. we always had full bellies of healthy food, and shoes that fit, and pencils and notebooks for school. and although my bikes, and jeans, and school bags, or toys were mostly hand-me-downs, i pretty much had everything a kid could ever need. and when my dad would make his bonus, you can bet your ass that my mother would take us out to buy a new shirt for school, or take the family out on an outing. and despite my stuborn, greedy teenage nature… my parents taught me responsibility and self-control. they indirectly taugth me to survive. and they most definitely taught me that love trumps all. always.

when m and i moved into our $700 attic apartment in the outskirts of chinatown, everything changed. the reality of life hit me like a ton of bricks and i instantly (instinctively) went into survivor-mode. by the end of it, i had no money, no food, no job… i had fucking nothing. and while m would hoard food at work and stuff his face so he wouldn’t have to share, i ate a teacher’s leftovers for four days. i made that pasta stretch because i didn’t know when my next meal was going to be. m gained 50lbs that summer, and i couldn’t keep my size 1 jeans up around my waist. i can’t remember the reason, but my dad came to visit one afternoon while m was at work- to make sure i was okay, or alive, or something. and while i’d excused myself to go to the washroom, he scoured my cupboards and fridge. and when all he found was an open bag of stale noodles in the cupboard, and an empty carton of eggs in the fridge, i swear i saw him break. and i don’t remember much from that visit at all, except he took me to a tiny market in the middle of the city and spent $60 on bagels and fruit and milk and eggs. i found out years later that it was the last few dollars he had in his bank account- it was the only money he and my mother had to pay for their own groceries, and he spent it on me.

if that’s not love, and if that’s not family, or being a team is all about… i don’t know what is.

my point is this: i’ve struggled. i have starved and worried about paying rent on time (if at all). i spent three months working at a shitty smoothie bar after i left m, just so i could eat. i’ve had hasty moves while roommates are away, and i’ve been that sketchy, shitty person.

but i’ve also been lucky. i landed a sales job at an international multi-million company where (by the grace of god), my boss saw a light in me that she trusted. i didn’t have a college degree, but she saw skills in me, and she knew i would work my ass off. i fucking worked the shit out of that job for three years and pushed those sales so i’d make enough commission to cover rent and groceries and clothes. it wasn’t glamourous, and i was still living paycheque to paycheque, but i made it. and once my boss left that company to come here, she immediately referred me to the president and comptroller. that woman saved my life- and i’m lucky enough that four years later, i still work with her… and although she’s not my boss anymore, she always has my best interest at heart- i don’t call her work mama for nothing. she has coached me in every aspect of my life, and i owe her everything.

i went from unemployment, to smoothie bar, to sales representative, to assistant to the comptroller… in four years. without an education, without a damn penny, and without a goddamn chance. and for the first time since i was seventeen, i’m comfortable. i make enough money to pay rent, buy groceries and cook every day, feed my cat, go on little trips to visit my friends in montreal, buy coffee before work, treat myself to a new piece of furniture, buy shoes and clothes when i need them, and spoil my family with presents on christmas. i can go to dinner with friends, and see movies in the theatre, or see a live band every once in awhile. i can’t do all these things on a daily basis, but they are definitely opportunities to be a regular young adult and live a fulfilled existence without worrying every single day of my life.

and if any of these lessons and mistakes, and all this struggling has taught me anything? it’s this: in a relationship, first and foremost, you’re a team. always.

i never expected m to support me when i graduated high school, but i also never expected him to watch me fucking die. and while it wasn’t all awful, that summer made me realize more than ever, that he is not the kind of person i ever want to share my life with.

now that dan and i have started apartment hunting, the reality of our finances has kind of hit me. dan is still apprenticing to be a chef, and until he can afford to take his chef’s class and make more money working, things will be tight. i will have to carry more of the load until he’s more established, and i’m okay with that. what kind of girlfriend wouldn’t want to support her significant other in following their dreams? and while we’re looking at very inexpensive apartments for the area (which consequently, are still expensive as fuck), i can see dan already losing hope.

we looked at a beautiful 1.5 bedroom apartment last night, and both of us fell completely in love. it’s smaller than my place now, has no dining room, even less of a kitchen, and barely any storage, but it felt right. the bedroom has wrap-around lead glass windows, the kitchen has original built-in glass-doored cupboards, and the floors are original to the home (over 100 years old). i’d have to sell a lot of my furniture and clothes, and store my seasonal clothing in my parents’ basement, and yet i was in love. i’ve had all this room to hold onto the things that have held me back, and i hate that. i want a cozy, warm, inviting home with my boyfriend, and i want to work together, as a team, to reach our goals and dreams- even if that means helping each other out along the way. if there’s one thing i keep reminding dan when he gets in those moods, it’s that i love him, and i’d never let him starve. i don’t think he really understands the depths of what that means for me, because m watched me do it so easily, btu i mean that. i’ve been there- i’ve struggled working those jobs, doing what i love, barely making any money, just because i knew that eventually things would look up- they worked out for me, and they’ll work out for him. and even though i don’t have a ring on my finger, or a baby in a crib, dan is my family now.

when we got home from the appointment we had to see that apartment, we ate dinner quietly, and made a few comments on how we’d want to set up the furniture if we were to get that apartment. we argued a little and we disagreed on most things and eventually i just went to bed- and dan, being the person he is, came in and tried to work it out and i just wouldn’t have it. i gave myself time to think about what i wanted to say, and how i wanted to say it, and once we’d both calmed down, i asked him to talk. it makes me sad that money is such a strain on relationships these days, and if you weren’t born into a family with money, you’ll be struggling til the day you die. that’s fucking scary.

in any case, we talked about our concerns, and we kissed and made up, and now that i know his financial situation a little bit better, and i can see what is feasible for both of us, we can start building a future together, as a team.

home sweet hell

just the thought of our bed
makes me crumble like the plaster
where you punched the wall beside my head
and i try to draw the line
but it ends up running down the middle of me
(most of the time)

– ani difranco

i was sitting on the floor of my one bedroom attic apartment, looking around at its emptiness. i wanted so badly to love that house- it’s charming red and yellow kitchen with the polkadotted wall paper, the clawfoot tub in the aqua-coloured bathroom, the slanted sunroom with broken screens. everything about that place was charming. i loved the original wood floors, the heavy doors, the smells, the sounds it made at night. i loved the crinkling sound of the records spinning in the living room as i put away our clean clothes in the bedroom. i loved the dining room- even after he’d painted one wall blood red, on a whim. even after i’d moved our misfits poster from the bedroom door, to the wall behind the front door, to hide the broken plaster where his fist had gone through that one summer night.

we had a 13inch television that sat on an empty moving box in the living room and we stole cable from the neighbours downstairs. we had a computer that didn’t work, sitting on a broken desk. we had an old blue sofa i scored online for $20. we had a tiny table big enough for two, and we had a chess set. we had an old futon mattress for a bed and one black dresser- we shared both. we had an empty fridge and empty cupboards. we had one lamp, and a pile of books. we had a record player and two records. we had a dictionary, an old barrel we used for a side table, and one plant i couldn’t even keep alive.

that’s it.

i often wonder what our neighbours thought- if they could hear his yelling, and my crying. if they could hear us running after each other down the stairs, and into the night- screaming at each other in the middle of the street. i wonder if they were nervous when it was quiet- too quiet. i was always scared they’d call the police, they’d take him away, and i’d be alone again. i wanted anything but to be alone in that house again.

i started having night terrors when he wouldn’t come home. i’d have these vivid dreams where i’d wake up to the sound of a record spinning in the living room, and when i’d go in to turn it off, something would grab me by the legs and drag me through the house, screaming. and when i wasn’t having night terrors, i wasn’t sleeping at all. i’d lay in bed with the cat and just stare at the walls… contemplating my way out, wondering if i could ever live without him. wondering if i could escape him, if i even tried.

i look back now and wonder why it took me so long to leave- why i was so in love with him despite everything. we had so many plans to fix our horribly broken relationship- we thought we could rebuild ourselves in that tiny little apartment. and we tried… we’d have long bubble baths in our giant tub, and we’d read books together in bed. we would lay on the couch and rub each others’ feet and watch cartoons. but when the money ran out, the food ran out. and then it became a fight for survival. we had no hope and i had become too tired to try anymore. so we stopped trying at all. he’d be high on drugs and the adrenaline of effortless hate, and i would be the target. i was always his fucking target.

but i wanted so badly to be the one to fix him, to fix us.

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