So far, I have managed to avoid the winter blues. Vitamin D, kids.
2018 has been a period of dramatic transition and progress. At the beginning of the year, I stepped down from management, and took a pay and hours cut to focus more on my art and comics. I finished FLIGHT, two new music videos, my colouring book, and I officially began Queen of Assholes. I completed more than fifty new pieces of original artwork, including the colouring book pages, Patreon requests, and a commission. Plus thirty or forty sketch cards. Also, I produced two Jin’s Kitchen videos, the Pumpkin Spice video, and launched my video blog. And some podcasts, blah blah blah. It is easy to forget how much one has accomplished, in an environment that demands fresh content almost daily, but this was my most productive year since leaving “retirement”.
I think I rebuilt my Art and Photo websites, too? It is all a blur.
After years of struggle, I seem to have at last gained control over my anxiety, insecurities, and obsessive and catastrophic thought patterns. Though I still suffer some physical symptoms like rapid heart rate, these last few months I have felt much less burdened. Maybe I am too tired. Maybe I have contracted a terminal case of give no fucks. I have things to do. A great many things. And life is short. One lesson that has really sunk in this year, is to keep away from people who are too eager to see the worst in themselves and others. Cynical and negative people. They cannot be lifted, except by their own actions. They will only drag you down. That was an exceptionally hard pill to swallow.
Sometimes, what feels like an act of kindness on the surface is actually being an asshole. And the thing that feels, superficially, like being an asshole, is the real act of kindness. These are the themes I am exploring in my new book. I am fundamentally a kind-hearted and honest person who has made mistakes while fighting my way through anxiety, depression, and the circumstances of my life. I woke up one day in 2014, stared in the mirror, and said, “I need to change.” I have been going through that clumsy process ever since.
The gym has been good for me. Focusing in on the physical body — becoming consciously aware of the muscles and their movements — creates a feeling of clarity and groundedness. My friend Damian, who is an exceptionally-talented artist himself — trains me. While working out, and frequently hanging around the gym afterward, we often have conversations about life, growth, learning, relationships — those kind of things. I have come to really treasure that.
Which brings me to my relationship with Stephen.
My relationship with Stephen is so entirely different from every other intimate relationship I have had, that it has literally changed my perspective of what a healthy relationship even is. I know from my own research that I formed an anxious-attachment style growing up. Most of my relationships have been a combination of emotional unavailability, on one or both sides, and some form of co-dependency. After two-and-a-half years together, Stephen is probably the first person I have been able to form an intimate, secure attachment to. I might even cast doubts on my ability to love another person at all before this point. (The ex-husband accused me of being a robot, although I was strongly attached to and emotional about my pet rats.) Even during the brief times we have split up, we have both unconditionally supported each other. No matter what, I have always felt safe, loved, and accepted by him. His complete and total unselfconciousness has helped me to feel comfortable in my own skin. I finally know what it feels like to be loved in a positive and supportive way. He has a tightly-knit, very loving family. I am sure that is no coincidence.
Stephen is not without his own troubles. He left shortly after the beginning of our relationship for issues he needed to resolve with his ex-girlfriend. It was a huge step forward for me at the time to experience that loss without anger or bitterness. Ultimately our attraction and bond pulled us back together. The rest of our conflict has mostly been rooted in finances. He lost the job he had held for about ten years shortly after we first got together, and has struggled to get back on his feet since, as older men often do in this economy. I am not able to support two people, when I can barely remain in the black month-to-month and feed myself. I have a small emergency fund, and when it is gone, there is nothing left. All of my parents and grandparents are deceased. I am on my own. I am constantly stressed by the delicate juggling act between my personal business and my day job. Still, I try to help others when I can.
Stephen is working again now, and we are doing much better.
When I began this journey in early 2015, after deciding to leave my marriage, I said I wanted the kind of relationship where both people are just as crazy about each other after ten years, as they were on the day they met. I cannot know what the future holds for Stephen and me. I do know that even after everything we have been through, growing individually, and together, we still lay around staring into each others’ eyes from time to time. I still think about how handsome he looks when I see him dressed in a button-up shirt and tie. In his arms is still my favourite place to be. It feels like home. Every challenge that has pushed up apart initially, has only brought us closer together, after we cleared it. And the man cooks the best steak I have ever eaten.
Sometimes messy, imperfect reality turns out to be better than a dream.
Merry Christmas to you all, and Happy New Year.