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Free Time

Remember when free time used to be a thing?

Feels like forever ago to me.

It seems almost impossible now, but there was a time not all that long ago when I’d finish school at 1:00 most of the time and have Fridays off completely. Occasionally I’d have a night class to contend with, and those were always annoying, but overall I only had maybe 20 hours’ worth of obligations every week.

Now, and for the foreseeable future, that number has more than doubled.

I’m not going to go revisionist history on the reasons why I stopped posting anything here, but a big reason why I never resumed once the dust settled is my lack of free time. Between work, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, and keeping up with video game and anime releases, and keeping an eye on the sports world, I feel like my time is completely booked. Sprinkle in various family obligations and I really have no time anymore.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing down my various thoughts anymore; I still do. Just setting down these two very basic entries has been fun for me, but unfortunately the days of regular updates are probably gone for good.

Probably, at least.

Prologue

It sure has been a while.

For just under twelve years I kept this place going. I was fourteen when I hit that publish button for the first time, and had just turned twenty-six when I last did. Twelve years of throwing my thoughts out into the world, and then suddenly I didn’t have anything worth saying anymore.

It’s strange though. I feel oddly disconnected from this place now in a way I haven’t before.

In 2017 I still felt connected to the things I had written in 2005. I didn’t always agree with them, but I knew they were things that I had once said and believed and typed out.

As I scan over this place on the penultimate day of the decade, it doesn’t feel real. It feels like all of the words here were written by someone else, on a different planet entirely.

So, where have I been? What have I been up to?

I’m not going to get into that. This is a Prologue, not an Epilogue. I’m not sure whether I’ll resume using this place, but if I do, I’m going to be looking forward as much as possible – not back.

Onto the next decade, folks.

 

Miscellaneous 3 AM Thoughts

First thing’s first. I’ve removed her as a follower of this blog. I have to be able to talk freely here, and I can’t do that knowing that everything I post gets sent to her email box.

I don’t think there will be any real structure to this one. I just need to set my thoughts down.

***

At this point in my life, I’ve spent an aggregate of about 12 years devoting myself to two women who ended up cheating on me and leaving me.

In Melissa’s case, maybe I should have seen it coming. She had bounced from relationship to relationship every 6 months. I think she had one that made it to the one year mark. I’m not sure why I expected our relationship to be any different, but I did.

She cheated on me, and she was upfront about it immediately. She said she would always love me, but that she couldn’t be with me.

I took it pretty hard. I don’t have blog entries detailing my thoughts from that time period because I deliberately kept that subject out of here, but it shocked me to the core that this person who I had spoken to almost every single day for the last six years was out of my life forever.

Eventually I came to regard her as evil incarnate. I referred to her as “the infamous woman” for years afterward because of the emotional roller coaster she had dragged me through for the entire duration of our friendship and relationship.

I really thought Jessie was different. She’d had her own teenage years fucked up by a cheating boyfriend, and she knew how it felt to be left for someone else. During our relationship, it was revealed that her father had had an affair, putting both her and her mother through emotional turmoil.

And so I thought “Surely, if I can trust any woman on the planet not to put me through that again, it’s this one.”

But here we are.

I was cruel to her at the end. Perhaps unnecessarily so. But she absolutely deserved it, and right now I’m not sorry.

What she did to me was vile.

She cheated on me.

She continued to foster a relationship with the man she cheated on me with, even when I was very clear that in doing so she was hurting me.

She put me through hell for three months so she could explore her emotional and sexual relationship with this man, while I was told to stand aside and wait patiently without speaking to her. All the while she maintained that she loved me and was doing this for us, to rid herself of these “clouds” and the “confusion” in her head.

And then, in the end, she left me.

In the same way that Donald Trump is making a lot of people look wistfully back at George W. Bush, Jessie makes me look wistfully back at Melissa. There’s a new infamous woman now.

***

The worst part of this is the fact that I didn’t do anything wrong, and yet I’m the one who gets shafted. The woman who cheated gets a new boyfriend to help her get over the old one. The man who didn’t respect boundaries goes from being single to being in a relationship. And I end up alone.

It sucks.

My friends have been really supportive, but they can’t fill the void. It’s not possible.

Really, the void left by Melissa wasn’t filled until two years later when Jessie and I got together. And in the same way, I don’t think this void will be filled until I meet someone else.

I’m worried about that too. What if I don’t meet someone else?

I don’t do the whole “love at first sight” thing. I’ve never fallen for someone who I haven’t known for at least six months already. And with school behind me, opportunities for meeting and establishing relationships with people will be fewer and further between. So, I don’t know.

***

For the first time, the shortness of life is really starting to hit me.

I’ve just turned 26. If not for all this, I’d have been proposing in three weeks’ time. If it was sunny, it’d have been in the park, and if not it’d have been in the museum. And it’d have been done by reading from the advance proof copy of Under Milk Wood that I bought for her – specifically the early Mog Edwards dream sequence. She’d have said yes. Given the additional difficulties with the Atlantic Ocean being in the way it’d probably have been a lengthier than usual engagement, but I imagine we’d have been married at 27. That would have left lots of time for settling down and deciding whether or not to have a kid.

But now, who knows how long it will be until I even meet someone else? Last time it was two years. Say it’s two years again this time. I’ll be 28. A four year relationship and a one year engagement, and I’m 33. And that’s assuming the first person I get into a relationship with ends up being the person I marry. I hate that. And I hate that she’s already with someone new, so she doesn’t have the same issue.

***

I’m still in disbelief.

The cheating, and the continued relationship with this man, and the three months were all horrible ordeals.

But I could have – and would have – forgiven her for all of it if in the end she had chosen me.

That she didn’t boggles my mind.

That, after all that she concluded that she would be happier with him than me is stunning.

I would have gone to the ends of the earth for her. Those who were closest to her and could see the things I did for her on a daily basis were well aware of that. And if it hadn’t been clear enough already, the past six months – where I willingly went through the closest thing to a literal hell for her – should have confirmed it.

Beyond that, we were compatible on so many levels. Emotionally, mentally, intellectually, sexually, etc. We just… fit, for lack of a better word.

And so for her to conclude that she’ll be happier with him than me is difficult to comprehend.

If there were problems with the relationship, I could understand it. If we’d been fighting, or if there was a loss of passion, or if something between us had fundamentally changed, I could understand it. But there was none of that. We had a fantastic relationship until she decided to scuttle it.

We were both (as far as I could tell) genuinely thrilled with each other.

I don’t know how to describe the feeling. It’s like scoring a 99 on a test and being told you’ve finished second. I’m left wondering how the hell I got beat, and what the hell he brings to the table that I didn’t. I did everything for her, but everything somehow wasn’t enough. It’s tough.

what have i done

I am a monster.

How could I say those things?

I was in so much pain, and I felt the walls closing in, and in my pain I went blind with rage and burnt everything to the ground.

I was so cruel. I just wanted the pain to go away.

And now it’s all in ashes. I’ll never see any of them ever again.

And the pain hasn’t gone away. It’s only gotten worse.

Why did she do this? Why did I do this?

I am the lowest form of scum, and I deserve all of the pain I feel right now.

There’s no hope anymore. I made sure of that.

But I still love them all. Even though she discarded me.

 

 

The Rest Is Silence

In the end, it wasn’t enough.

Despite everything that I did for the past six years – included the hell I’ve gone through on her behalf for the past six months – she chose him instead.

I think it’s a gigantic, devastating mistake.

As low as my self-confidence is at the moment, I know that I was an outstanding boyfriend. She will never find someone who will try as hard as I did to make her happy.

But, it wasn’t enough. And now I’ve lost everything. Maybe for her this will be for the best, but I just feel completely broken.

There’s nothing left to say here anymore.

 

Battles

Have I ever posted three in one day before?

 

That last one was the depression talking. It’s scary, isn’t it? It frightens me too. Part of me wants to delete it, but I don’t think I should. That’s the reality of how my mind thinks sometimes, and either hiding it or pretending it doesn’t happen only makes it worse.

Fortunately, I had a therapy session this evening, and that helped a little. I’m still not feeling great, but I’m better than I was.

The fact is, every day is a battle right now. Some days are minor skirmishes. Others, like today, are all-out wars. There’s no real sense of victory at the end of the day – just exhaustion. Right now, the key is just making it to the next one. So far, so good.

 

And Barry, if you’re listening, I still love you.

 

I am not a good person. It would be better if I disappeared.

I don’t know how we got to this point, because four months ago I was a good person. I know I was. I used to bring joy to people. I used to make people happy.

And now all I do is hurt people, just by talking to them.

I talk to Sue and it makes her miserable. Sometimes she doesn’t even respond anymore because I’ve hurt her with what I’ve said.

I talk to Lizzie and it hurts her because she likes the other guy better than me and doesn’t want to lose his friendship.

I talk to my parents and it hurts them that I don’t do the things that they want me to do.

I talk to Jessie and it makes her feel guilty, and she eventually just tells me to go away so I won’t hurt her anymore. And that’s the worst one of all, because all I want to do is to love her and be loved by her like I did for almost six years. Instead I’ve been an immense source of pain for her, non-stop, for months on end. That’s pathetic.

I love all of these people. All I want is for them to be happy. And I used to be able to make them happy. But now I just can’t stop hurting them. Everything I say to them hurts them. But I talk to them anyhow because I’m selfish. And they’ve all turned on me now. As they should.

If I disappeared, things would be better for all of them. Sue wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore. Lizzie would be able to have her new friend without feeling bad. Jessie wouldn’t have to make any decisions. I wouldn’t disappoint my parents anymore.

I wish that I was still a good person. I don’t know how this happened, but somehow we’ve reached a point where the world would be better off without me in it.

I don’t know who’s reading, and I don’t know who cares, but I’m sorry to the whole world for being the way I am right now. I’m trying so damned hard to fight but it’s hard when you’ve lost everyone and everything you loved.

I’ve fallen into an unpleasant pattern.

Talking to her feels as natural as breathing – and just as necessary. But I know I’m not supposed to right now, so I hold it in. I hold my breath.

For the first day or two I’m okay. But then I start to struggle against myself. I begin to forget about whatever positive things were said the last time we spoke. I start feeling alone, and forgotten. By the fifth day it’s unbearable. I need to say something. Anything. I just need to know if I still exist. I need to breathe. So I do.

I think overall I’ve done a good job of giving her space so far – our communication is probably less than 5% of what it normally would be. But whenever I say something, I feel guilty because I feel like I’m intruding on whatever it is she’s doing. I don’t want to disturb her, but the need to say something is just overwhelming sometimes.

Today is one of those times. Tonight is the monthly swing event over there – usually her favourite night of the month. And even though it’s something I’m usually not present for, I’ve made sure to either skype her or have her send a picture before she goes, so that I can tell her how beautiful she looks. And she always looks beautiful. Every single time.

And so at this very moment, 3000 miles away, there is a woman I love who looks absolutely stunning. And for the first time, I can’t tell her how wonderful she looks.

 

And Barry, if you’re listening, I still love you.

How Depression Works

I don’t tend to cross-post between Facebook and here, but I’m going to make an exception in this case.

It is very difficult to understand depression unless you’ve been through it. I certainly didn’t understand it until it grabbed me by the throat a few years back.

So, in the spirit of #BellLetsTalk Day, I’m going to talk about my experiences with depression. Everyone’s experience is different, but hopefully this will serve to help explain it to those who haven’t been there.

Pick a happy memory of yours. Someone telling you that they love you, for example.

Now see if you can find a way to reinterpret that memory in order to make it a sad one. Imagine that the person who told you that they love you was only saying it out of pity. Or perhaps they were only saying it because they wanted to avoid an awkward situation. Or perhaps they meant it at the time, but in the five days/weeks/months since they said it, their feelings have changed, and now they no longer love you.

Normally, you’d have to work very hard to convince yourself that any of those alternative explanations are true. There’s just too much evidence against them.

But when you’re depressed, the opposite is true. It takes a herculean effort to convince yourself that you are truly loved, and even when you’re able to muster that effort, your fortitude can crumble in an instant.

Now imagine that process happening against your will to all of your memories at the same time. That summer picnic ? Yeah, no one really wanted you there but they felt compelled to invite you. That time you went dancing? All everyone was thinking about was how it would have been so much better if you weren’t there. That time you went to play board games? You were the only one having fun; everyone else thought it was lame.

It’s not long before your past is completely swallowed up by the darkness.

“I’ll fight it” you might say, but it’s not that easy to fight against your own brain. If your brain has concluded that no one loves you and that the past was miserable, then those become “facts”. From there on it’s just as difficult to convince yourself that you are loved as it is to convince yourself that the sky is red.

After your past has been devastated, depression comes for your present. Nothing is enjoyable anymore. Big hockey fan? Now you have no interest in sitting through more than five minutes (and not just because your team is complete garbage at the moment). Video games that you once loved feel like a chore to play. TV shows suddenly seem boring. Your favourite foods all taste like cardboard. Hanging out with friends feels hollow – you’re laughing outwardly, but on the inside you feel numb.

Because none of these things make you feel good anymore, eventually you just stop doing them. Instead, you wake up, struggle desperately to find ways to kill eight minutes here and five minutes there until it’s late enough to go to bed. Every day feels sixty hours long, and by the end of it you’re exhausted from the effort of pretending that everything is okay. If you’re lucky, you’ll sleep and dream of nothing. If you’re not, you’ll spend half the night having nightmares and the other half lying awake, too scared to fall asleep again. Then you get to do it all again the next day. And the next day. And the day after that.

With the past and present both consumed, the last thing to fall is the future. And this is the worst of it. This is why we have a #BellLetsTalk Day. Depression wouldn’t be half as bad if you could be convinced that you will feel better in one month, or two months, or even six months. The problem is, it’s damned near impossible to do that when you see both the past and present as utterly bleak. You can’t look back at times in the past where you were happy because you’ve convinced yourself that you weren’t really happy then. You feel like you’ve passed your peak – your best days are behind you, and you’ll never be happy again. And you believe that with every ounce of your being.

And so hopelessness sets in. All you know for sure is that your past was mediocre, your present is worse, no one loves you anymore, and things will not get better – they will only get worse.

In the end, you might think that there’s only one way out. One way to end all of the pain that comes with every hour of being alive.

When you start thinking about dying, that’s rock bottom. I’ve been there before. I’ll probably be there again. It’s as dark and desperate a place as you can possibly imagine.

I don’t take things particularly seriously. I’d say I’m joking around somewhere between 90% and 95% of the time. But this is something I’m serious about. This is literally a matter of life and death:

If you suspect that someone is struggling, talk to them. Never mind that they’re withdrawn and don’t really want to talk. Do it anyway, and do it right now. And then invite them out somewhere. Never mind that they’re no fun to be around at the moment. Do it anyway, and do it right now. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just out for a beer or a coffee is enough. If they don’t want to, suggest another activity. Or another date. Just reach out to them until their brain can’t ignore or re-interpret the love that you are showing them anymore.

And if you yourself are struggling. Talk to someone. Talk to me. We’ll climb out of this pit together. Just don’t suffer in silence. Talk.

 

And Barry, if you’re listening, I still love you.

Creep

Every now and then the Internet puts you in an awkward position and gives you an embarrassing story to tell.

Recently I’ve started playing a game called Town of Salem. It’s a video game, but it plays more like a board game, really.

The basics are simple. There are 15 players to start. Among those 15 players are 3 or 4 mafia members. The mafia members know who the other mafia members are, but the other players do not. Each turn, the mafia will kill off one of the villagers. The players can then decide amongst themselves to execute a player if they believe that player to be a mafia member. The villagers need to identify who the mafia members are before the mafia wipes them out and takes control of the town. There are plenty of intricacies, but that’s the gist of it anyhow. It feels a lot like The Resistance, if you’ve played that.

Here’s how it looks:

Salem.png

So, on the first turn, the mafia decided to kill off “prinzEugen”, and the remaining 14 townsfolk will now discuss who, if anyone, to send to the gallows.

By its very nature this game requires a lot of communication with complete strangers. If you’re a villager you need to convince the other villagers that you’re trustworthy, and if you’re a mafia member, you need to convince the other villagers that you’re trustworthy while trying to spread confusion and doubt so that they make the mistake of executing other villagers rather than mafia members. In either case, communication is necessary. You can stay silent for the first few turns, but once the number of players starts to dwindle, saying absolutely nothing looks suspicious as hell. So naturally you get chatting with people, both about the game and other subjects.

Today I got chatting with a girl named Karla. I say this, but of course this is the Internet, so I had no idea if the person I was speaking with was really a girl named Karla. But my rule with anonymous Internet conversations is to take things at face value unless the person gives you a reason not to. So, Karla it was.

She mentioned that she was from England, so we got talking on that subject for a bit. The game ended before our conversation reached a natural conclusion, so I sent her an in-game friend request, and we kept chatting.

Then she asked me “How old are you?”

I froze up. That’s not something people usually ask. Not this early in an Internet conversation anyway. One alarm bell went off in my head. This was a reason to suspect that the person I was talking to might not be a girl from England named Karla. It might be a creep.

At the same time, I didn’t want to be rude. So, I decided to test “Karla” by saying “I’ll tell you how old I am if you tell me where in England you’re from.”

She said “London”, which is the exact answer you would give if you weren’t a girl from England named Karla. Another alarm bell.

I said “London’s a massive city, you’ve got to be more specific than that – what neighbourhood?”

She said “I don’t know lol.”

About a dozen alarm bells went off in my head. How could you possibly not know what part of London you’re from? “Karla” could have said just about anything and I’d have believed her. She could have made up a neighbourhood and I’d have been none the wiser.

But she didn’t. She said “I don’t know lol.”

I knew that what I should do at this point was close the conversation, unfriend “her”, and never speak with her again. That would have been the smart move.

But I am not a smart man. I had to say one more thing. And in doing so I guaranteed my own doom.

I said “You don’t know where in London you’re from? Hmm. But whatever, I’m 25.”

Now there’s nothing wrong with telling a complete stranger that you’re 25 years old. There’s nothing they can do with that information.

But by saying that, I gave her a chance to reply. And how did she reply?

“Cool. I’m 10.”

The alarm bells stopped ringing.

I sighed, I closed the conversation, I unfriended her, I blocked her, and then I closed the game.

There was no longer any doubt that I had been talking to a girl from London named Karla. A 10 year old girl from London named Karla, who didn’t know what part of London she’s from because she’s 10 years old. A 10 year old girl from London named Karla who didn’t know that it’s not polite to ask how old people are on the Internet because she’s 10 years old.

And to that 10 year old girl from London named Karla, just minutes before, I had said “I’ll tell you how old I am if you tell me what part of England you’re from.”

With horror I realized that I was the creep.

No more Internet for me today. I’m banned.

And Barry, if you’re listening, I still love you.