A Good Day (in the “Getting Things Done” Sense)

EyeglassesI still have three to four big “projects” to start, but today was a good start.

The only fault I can find in the sleeping aid I’ve been prescribed is that, although it’s only 1 mg, it’s way too strong for me. It knocks me out for 12 hours. As a result, when I wake up at 12:00 or 1:00 pm, I feel like it’s too late to get started on anything. I didn’t feel too bad about it on Official Day 1 (last Tuesday), but it bothered me yesterday — Official Day 2. So, I resolved taking only 1/2 mg from now on.

I had an appointment with Lucy this morning at 11:30, so I forced myself out of bed by 9ish. And aside from the usual daily “shit shower shave and shampoo” routine, I dug a little in my stuff and found a copy of my lease.

In June 2008, shorthly after I moved to Montréal three years ago, I took care of switching my health insurance from Nova Scotia to Québec. At the time, that was a great experience compared to my dealings with other agencies in Québec. Unfortunately, my health card never came and, when I called the following July about it, again it didn’t come and then I just forgot about it. The problem is that, now, I really need it for my consultations with Gary.

So I made it for my appointment with Lucy. That went well and the next appointment (on my dime hereafter) will be same time next week. After that, I had a nice lunch in a restaurant just outside her office building, and then came back home because of a quick call I had to make with someone in Halifax. Once that was done, I headed back downtown to jump all the necessary hurdles (again!) to get my card. Turns out I got my picture taken for nothing (they don’t accept it there) and they would have scanned my lease on the spot (I didn’t need to have it photocopied like I did), but I refused to let that piss me off. Rather, I appreciated and thanked the agents for the fact that I was in-and-out of there in 45 minutes despite it being busy in there. I have a temporary card for now, which will make Gary happy, and let’s hope the third time is the charm as far as finally getting my health card.

Afterwards, I headed a few blocks west to finally get another thing done: have an eye exam and buy glasses. Turns out I’ll definitely need them for reading from now on, but also for everything else. Not bad: I went 46 years without having to wear glasses all the time. The “ouch” side is that I spent $800, but the good side is that it was one of those “buy 1 get the 2nd pair for $1” deal. While both pairs will be bifocals, one pair will be adapted for computer work (i.e., daytime at work) and the other will be for the rest of the time. While both frames are similar, I made sure the ones I prefer are not-for-work.

Then I came to the Village for light supper, coffee, and writing this. Next I’ll pick some stuff up at the grocery store next to the Papineau métro and head back home. So, a productive day during which I took care of two nagging things I’d been neglecting for too long.

Pretty trivial, huh? But not for me.

Funny, I Didn’t Expect To Be Here

Thinking CapLast spring, when I admitted to myself that I was going through more than a simple period of the blues, I didn’t think I would be exploring the themes I’m exploring now. But now that I am, they’re making a lot of sense and, for the most part, they aren’t as dark and mysterious as one might have thought. Making the necessary changes still aren’t obvious, though — at least, no yet.

Call me crazy, but I didn’t make a connection until now with being bullied and taunted as a “fag” through all my childhood. As far as I was concerned, that was something I had gotten over long ago. What I hadn’t considered are the scars — in this case, the coping strategies I developed to get through the pain of being rejected, of not being among the “cool” kids.

For example, take my excessive avoidance of confrontation that I mentioned earlier. I remember now how I so dreaded the next episode of bullying (i.e., the next confrontation) that I tried everything to avoid it — to not having it happen again. For heaven’s sake, in elementary and junior school, I’d even feign bellyaches to avoid gym class! (I know, it’s pathetic, but remember: these are products of a child’s thinking.) I also set out to be the best in class, the logic being that, while admitting that I sucked in phys ed, I thought outperforming everyone would “shut them up” (if not draw “admiration”) because I’d be better than them in all other respect. (Again, a child’s way of thinking.) I probably was, and probably still am, thin-skinned or sensitive. To this day, I shrivel up on myself whenever someone raises their voice around me.

As a kid, I also preferred conversing with teachers after class or during resess, not to be teacher’s pet but because I found the company and conversation of adults far more interesting than that of my peers. Adults were safe and non-judgemental. This is reminding me of that feeling I felt while in high school and even sooner — a feeling I mentioned in a musical retrospective I wrote in June 2007 — that feeling being that childhood and adolescence felt like a purgatory for me, an unpleasant waiting period before I could start living, really live life — unimpeded by the immaturity of non-adults.

It’s often said, although it’s difficult or impossible to prove empirically, that many gays and lesbians grow up to become over-achievers, regardless of whether or not they were taunted as kids. For me, I drew from my strengths and did whatever I could to draw positive attention to counter all the negative attention I was getting. At the same time, I also remember a time in my early teens when I cautioned myself against being a showoff. Developing a personal “charm offensive”: that’s what it amounted to. I pressured myself to constantly say and do everything so perfectly that it couldn’t possibly go unnoticed by anyone. In fact, I often strived for more than “perfect”; I went for completely over-the-top. I felt I had to DO more and GIVE more as well as doing it better. Being “wrong” was never an option. Yet, as if to inject even more insanity to such insane self-imposed pressure, it all had to be subtle enough so that it wouldn’t come across “showoff-y.” Enough pressure yet?

It’s that last insane bit that probably explains my tendency to be self-effacing in the sense of trying to occupy my space but my space only …but here, let me make myself smaller so that I won’t take up too much space for myself. And it’s also why people who blow their own horn at every occasion drive me insane, as it just so classless to me. I guess I was an apostle of the “show, don’t tell” adage well before I ever heard it.

This account so far may lead some to think that everything they’ve come to know as “Maurice” is all one big phony fabrication. That wouldn’t be true, though. The core of Maurice is hypersensitive and deeply caring. And maybe in good part because other kids treated me so “unjustly,” I could never endure seeing others being treated unjustly for whatever reason. From my inherent personality traits and my early life experiences emerge the Maurice who is compelled to help or outright rescue, who can seldom say no, who cannot comfortably occupy his space, who sometimes gives more than he can afford (emotionally or financially).

Forty years later comes a complete depletion of energy to the point that I can no longer find the energy to do the simple, mundane things in life that anyone needs to do for themselves. And I avoid the things that might turn confrontational despite the odds that they won’t be.

Thus the purpose of my two-weeks’ leave from work is not only to rest, reflect and see my therapist, but to start the things I’ve put off for too long. Once started, they can eventually come to completion and stop causing noise around me. And as I’m getting a better understanding of how I tick, I’m starting to see what exactly I need to recalibrate so that I don’t come back to this point: how to care for myself as much as I care for others without stopping caring for others.

Best PM We Never Had

Jack Layton, 1950-2011I had a good feeling about Jack Layton from the day the NDP elected him as party leader; I even said so at the time, when aMMusing was only a babe of a blog. Now, Layton is dead, just a bit over three months after leading his party to the status of Official Opposition and less than a month after announcing, looking very ill and very gaunt, that he was “temporarily” stepping down as leader so that he could concentrate on winning a second fight against cancer.

I didn’t blog about Layton when he died a few weeks ago, in good part because I didn’t feel that I could add to what was already being said. But when I read on the morning of August 22 that he had died, I wasn’t surprised. While I was in Halifax, the Queen of Sheba sadly predicted that “he won’t make it to the end of August.” So, every morning when I would check the CBC News website, I expected to see the dreaded headline while hoping that Layton’s legendary optimism would prevail and that the Queen of Sheba would be wrong.

The outpouring of grief from coast to coast to coast reinforced the saying that we don’t know what we’d be losing until it’s gone. Even people who strongly disagreed with Jack’s politics expressed sadness over his passing. Never had a Leader of the Opposition who hadn’t held higher office died while in office.

Questions immediately arose about how the Orange Wave that swept Québec during last spring’s election was due exclusively to Jack’s popularity — Le Bon Jack — a leader who, unlike the others, spoke of optimism and hope and change and avoided negative attacks on his opponents during the election campaign. In truth, many first-time NDP voters in Québec implicitly voted for Jack rather than their unknown NDP candidate, as the people here are notorious for voting a large blocks, animated by a strong desire for change — change that Jack incarnated.

The 59 NDP MPs from Québec must now live up to the challenge. They have four years to do it. Having decimated the sovereignist Bloc Québécois, they must rebuff the attacks over how some of them once held sympathies for the Bloc or, provincially, the Parti Québécois or Québec Solidaire.

The lack of political sophistication among voters outside Québec never ceases to amaze me. It seems impossible for them to understand that the Québécois can look at a party’s whole platform and, finding that most of it fits with their political leanings, they can overlook those parts with which they disagree, like Québec sovereignty. Back in the day when the NDP was a non-entity here, had I been living in the east side of Montréal rather than the west, I would have voted Bloc for two reasons: (1) it’s left-of-centre and (2) it would have prevented the seat from going to the Conservatives. Even today, there are parts of the NDP platform with which I don’t fully agree, but it’s the closest that I’ve got.

Jack was a rassembleur — a “uniter” — the likes of which we have rarely seen on the Canadian political landscape. He did that with his eternal optimism and deep belief that change CAN happen. I admit that I would cringe when he’d start election campaigns saying, “My name is Jack Layton, and I’m running for Prime Minister,” but with perseverance, he came to form the government-in-waiting in 2011. “Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done…”

And in the last hours of his life, the best PM Canada never had left us with his inspiring political manifesto.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

May he rest in peace, and may we honour his memory.

Just Plain Nuts?

Larson's Just Plain NutsI do miss Gary Larson’s Far Side, and this one pictured here is not only one of my favorites, but most à propos for me these days.

Yesterday I visited (whom I’ll refer to as) Gary, who was referred to me by Lucy. Lucy is a psychologist but Gary is a psychiatrist, the difference being that Gary, as a medical doctor, can (a) prescribe medication and (b) write a letter suggesting that a “patient” needs a medical leave. Lucy made this suggestion when we discussed how some time off work might be beneficial for me at this point.

So, how did it go? Well, Gary did not declare me “just plain nuts.” He called it “Ajustment Disorder” with “mixed moods” including depressive episodes, but that’s less severe than a full-out depression. What’s more, he did not prescribe me an anti-depressant, which is just as well because I would have refused it after a first visit/assessment. Mind you, he did prescribe a mild sedative which I’ve since looked up, and it’s meant to be for short-term use and is kind of an anti-depressant, but not heavy-duty. At any rate, his reasoning, as I understood it, is that full-fledged anti-depressants level off one’s mood and that would be counterproductive in my case because I need to live through and continue to think through the emotions and reflections I’ve finally let come to the surface. Further, he opined that taking two weeks off work with the notion of finally addressing the “noise” so that I can focus on the core is a sensible if not downright excellent idea. “I’m not dismissing the depressive episodes because I’m sure they’re very intense when they occur,” he said, “but the fact you’re speaking of your fundamental optimism and ‘being stalled in the middle of a tunnel instead of falling into a bottomless pit’ tells me you could be far more depressed and completely unable to function, but instead you sound like you’re on the right track to getting better.”

And you know what? As I was heading back home on the métro for my first client training appointment at 9:30, I’m pretty sure I had a little smirk on my face. Substitute “Just plain nuts” in the cartoon with “Lock-him-up depressed”: Gary’s assessment of my situation was the absolute opposite, and that, strangely enough, made me feel better.

I had another appointment with Lucy this morning and I told her what transpired yesterday with Gary. She thought my comparison with the Larson cartoon was funny, but she got what I meant in that “whatever works for you” kind of way. I know I’ll still have some “work” to do after my short leave; I’m still feeling a little touch-and-go. However, the granting of the leave, combined with knowing that I’m not as badly off as I feared, has renewed my resolve to get to the bottom of it all.

Pandora’s box? Whatever! Just bring it on.