Life in hard mode

I lost my glasses today. Went through the whole day stumbling around, squinting at everyone, sitting 2 inches from my monitor. No problem, I said to myself, today I play life in hard mode! I survived the drive home, which wasn’t terrible. But there were times during the day when I thought, ‘oh let me just put on my glasses’, only to realize I couldn’t. It made me think about identity… well I always think about identity.

I had to rethink my identity this past year. It went from be a loving person to my girlfriend, her family, my friends, and whenever I can, my own family. But all of that was put on the back burner when I lost the one person I loved most. I had to -still have to – learn how to love myself . That ordeal proved a lot more difficult, and it was only after a long period of torturing myself that I allowed myself this goal. I starved myself, I endured intense training, I destroyed my body in many ways (including tattooing and burning myself) to the point I can’t recognize myself in the mirror. I began a new narrative. It wasn’t about being loving – it was about being the strongest person I can be. And it brought me a lot… I got two raises, a promotion, I did things I was never brave enough to attempt like boxing or applying to graduate school, asking women out, partying. Yet there was this gnawing feeling at my core that it was all unfulfilling. I felt like I was still failing. It felt like I lost myself.

Last week’s therapy session was this giant slap in the face of everything I repressed in myself. I thought these two sides of me were irreconcilable. But I’m realizing maybe I should synthesize theses two differing sides of me. I can be a strong, dominant leader and fighter, but I can also be loving, supportive, and selfless. Looking back, and this is really sad to admit, but when I slept around with X, I was making love to her like I did with my ex.  Sure it was mutually agreed to be casual and she felt good, but I wasn’t giving her a chance to tell me what she liked… I had to stop seeing her because she’d never be a replacement.

There’s a part of me pining for my ex still. But there’s a counter voice saying that it’s not her. I’m pining for that part of my identity. And maybe those things aren’t mutually exclusive. I have to be OK with being myself. I have to love myself… and I don’t exactly know what that looks like right now but I’m sure I’m not going to find it on dating apps haha. And it’s a little sad and pathetic that I’m so desperate to love someone else so I don’t have to love myself. But that’s the thing I have to unlearn from my childhood trauma.

My therapist explained to me that it’s common for people to disassociate themselves from their body to get through physical trauma. In my case, she told me that I’ve normalized it… I’m sorry I’ve continued the cycle of abuse. I vow to never again… These things are confusing, and I just want to be OK because it’s been a long time since I’ve felt truly comfortable.

 

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This is the sound I make when I feel the burdens of life

 

 

 

 

Snapshot

As friendly as I appear, the truth is I’m not exactly sociable. I’m a loner. I spent most of my birthday alone, eating at a restaurant I like. Then I watched Fast and Furious, during which I felt like some of my brain cells self-destructed. I walked around and finally came out of my hiding to meet my friend. He was one of the few people to remember my birthday, so I thought it was really sweet. We watched the sunset by a pond. Electrical wiring sat beyond the trees, and they looked so misplaced but strangely fitting against the saturated sky. A breeze swept across the pond and rattled the reeds before us. I remember the ducks quaking like gossip. I haven’t enjoyed a sunset as much in a long time.

I keep looking for love, but I think I just need to live my life. It seems like I always have more girls talking to me when I’m just doing my own thing. I have to have fun along the way, and just remember dating and love are two different things. Attraction is a strange thing too. For some reason, gay guys hit on me a lot. Is it my mustache?

There’s enough ceiling windows to let in filtered sunlight. I like jumping rope near the spotlights, where I whip up torrents of dust. I’m kinda impressed by how well I jump rope lately. I can do double-unders, I can dance, jumping jacks, and move about the room with ease now. My morning workouts make me feel alive and true to myself. I feel so contained in life sometimes by how I appear, how I should act, what to say etc. My skin feels like a prison, and to be able to explode out of it by slamming the heavy bag or sparring -there’s nothing like it. When I’m drenched in sweat trying to find strength and the mural of Ali looms before me, there’s almost a feeling of transcendence. When my coach slaps a 25lb weight on my back while I plank for 5 minutes, I finally escape my prison…

And oh when the gym blasts these songs with the bass, I feel so lost and free

I’m trying to be more mindful of the beautiful moments I get to experience. It sounds stupid and lame, but when I remind myself how interesting life can be, the mundane things in life become more interesting. Like… waiting at little caesers for shitty pizza, but that’s not something I do often so it was it was cool sitting there beneath the fluorescent light and just being with a father and son who do it regularly and you can tell it makes them happy.

It’s been up and down lately… I hurt less lately.

Happy Birthday To Me

“Well who do you want to be?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then think of someone fictional or real, and describe traits you like in them.” She took out a notepad.

I said who came immediately to my mind. “Lily’s dad.”

“And what about him do you want to be like?”

“He was just this completely selfless guy. I try to be that. I’m obviously not that… He was loving and giving. He always looked after others. He was playful. He’d sing their names in Cantonese and I always thought it was the cutest thing. He was sociable and easy to be around… He was driven and tireless when it came to helping his family… Even when he was driven by ego, it was about helping his son being a happier person.” Something stirred in me. I looked away, but I couldn’t stop it. The tears came. It was the first time I cried in therapy.

“Alan.”

“I miss him. I miss all of them…”

“Alan, I believe you already embody these qualities.” She showed me her notes: Driven, Family Man, Playful and gentle, selfless and loving… I didn’t look at the rest. I just turned away.

“I think so… That’s the part Lily loved about me. It’s just… everyone in my family attacked me for having those qualities. So I learned to be something else. Something I didn’t recognize when I got angry. But Lily and her family, they took me in. And I gave them all up. For what? For this? For my shitty family? To become someone better? I know it was the right thing to do. It was supposed to happen, but why is it so difficult still? I thought I was doing everything right.”

We ended the session a little later than usual. She offered me the paper with his characteristics on them, but when I held it I couldn’t stop crying. It was like I was near them again. We stood outside and she grounded me. It reminded me of how Lily tried to ground me. I smiled.

“Who do you want to be? Do you want to be what people expect you to be? Or do you want to be who you are?” This question burned in my head for the last 24 hrs. Happy birthday to me…