Pride in the Wound

Now kid, I know I haven't been a perfect man, and I've avoided doing things I know I can.

There's this pervasive belief that ADHD is not real because you can "focus when you want to". In a sense, sure... I am capable of hyperfocusing on something I find interesting or engaging. This means I can be engrossed in two straight seasons of Grey's Anatomy, or sit quietly for two hours just watching my hand rise and fall on Sunday's belly as she breathes. I often lose time when I'm sucked into a painting or a really fun crafting project, or even when I'm making a really, really neat to-do list.

But when it comes time to shift that attention elsewhere, it fractures. That intense concentration dissipates and suddenly the white noise floods back. Trying to lock my attention onto a homework assignment or doing the laundry somehow becomes rife with distraction, where I had just been able to focus with perfect clarity. And yes, the first group of tasks is decidedly more fun than the second, so it certainly looks like it's a choice to focus when it's fun.

On the surface, it looks like intentional laziness. This is especially hard when I know I am capable of that hyperfocus state, where I get so thoroughly immersed into my task that it feels like time stands still and the stars align and everything I do is productive as hell. In contrast, a mundane task can feel never-ending and torturous, and like each individual thought and action needed to finish the task will take hours to complete. Procrastination and ADHD go hand-in-hand; the onerous tasks, ones that are not engaging or interesting, will fall to the wayside.

When I started this blog, it was partially because I felt like I was supposed to, like it was the logical next step after starting my website. Get Website -> Get Blog -> Get Followers -> Officially A Professional. I thought that I could aim for a few get-to-know-me posts and go from there. I'm an artist, a student, and a witch, which all seemed like pretty good labels to dive into. So, back in April, I began drafting a blog post about my spiritual path. I've added to it a bit here and there, but it's been collecting dust the last few months. I'm pretty passionate about my witch practice, and I've lately relied on blogging as a means to organize the disarray in my head. So what on earth is stopping me from turning that superpowered focus onto this seven-month-old blog draft and cranking it out?

Keep your mind on the time; with your ass on the line, keep your fleet feet sliding.

In art history, we spent some time learning about Sen no Rikyū and the art of the tea ceremony. The samurai were not just warriors, but also highly civilized members of their society. There was an expectation that a samurai be able to perfectly perform the graceful, humble, and heavily ritualized tea ceremony. Indeed, being able to satisfactorily demonstrate an understanding of the tea ceremony increased a samurai's chances of eventually being a shogun warlord; your prowess on the battlefield alone could not garner you power.

An incredibly important aspect of this tea ceremony is an audible slurping at the end of your cup. This is done to purposefully mar the tranquility you have worked so diligently to create, in honor of the imperfectness of the life around you. Your grace, your power is in the humility you show in the simplest of gestures.

I'm the kind of person who tends to hide my struggle. I've experimented with dark humor and being a little cavalier about sharing too much information, but I tend to keep my deep issues exactly that - deep. I'm the kind of person to wait for Aaron to go to sleep and then go to the other room and cry myself empty for hours. I'm the kind of person to give up smoking and stop cutting myself, but also never put forth the effort to take care of my body. I'll even drive a little dangerously when I'm alone because if I die from "bad luck" then it's not that bad. Right?

It's taken me a long, long, long time to realize that not experiencing suicidal ideation does not automatically mean that I value my life. And honestly, I don't value it much. That's not something you can say to the people who love you. It's not something you can allow to be heard by the people who depend on you. It's not something that's really fixable or forgettable, per se.

This, then, is the first slice of light into my darkness - the marring of the tranquility I have attempted to cultivate. I have tried for a very long time to appear as though I care about myself. It has taken this devastating loss of Belly for me to realize that I have made too many choices with an audience in mind, and not enough choices with my own comfort as a priority. In admitting this, it seems all too clear that one of my goals should be to learn to see the value my life can have for me, not just for other people.

If I've learned one thing to tattoo on my arm or burn into my thumb, it would be that You must stick up for Yourself, son.

As my stupid blog draft about my spirituality grows virtual dust bunnies, Sabbats have passed. Yule is rapidly approaching, which will complete my first year of witchy celebrations. I have spent a lot of time learning more about these holidays I am celebrating, fully intending to blog about the ways I've celebrated them and what they mean to me personally. Instead, I've been listening to a lot of Yeasayer and preparing to write this blog.

Our blog song today, Ambling Alp, was a theme song for Bryce and I. Bryce was one of my best friends for ten years. Ours was not a healthy relationship. We were both flawed and would sometimes bring out the worst in each other. It became toxic. We tried to change things, to work out issues and mature the relationship, but ultimately it fell apart. Even when it did, I didn't see it coming. I was still surprised by the end of it. Much like the shock I felt when I lost Belly. I just.. hadn't expected it.

I'd like to be able to say that I've healed the wounds since Bryce and I broke our friendship. But honestly, the last two years have been lived with a sizable hole in them. I had to do a lot of crying and thinking and, eventually, spellwork to help myself move past the loss. Bryce had been a part of my soul, and the removal of him from my life was a suffering I hadn't anticipated. I thought he would be at my side to support my marriage. And I have felt so angry and newly hurt that he hasn't been here for this grief, this loss of Belly.

I wonder now if the sheer expectation I held was enough to drive him off. I had plotted my whole life around the idea that I had met my soulmates already. I didn't ever stop to wonder if he'd actually wanted to be there. And I didn't ever demand enough from him to make it a fair commitment, so when I finally did draw a line, I was shocked to find us on opposite sides of it. I can't help but wonder if he ever regrets any of it: the friendship, the lack of closure. I also wonder if he knows about Belly, or if he felt it when I finally released my connection to him. It took me a while to genuinely hope for his happiness and wish him well pursuing the things he's wanted to pursue.

I find it strange that Bryce was a foul weather friend who could not stay for the sunny skies. And it is in that particular musing that I find a wider swath of light into my darkness. I *am* in a better place than I used to be, even after losing Belly. Part of believing my life had no value was believing I would not live as long as I have. I fully expected the bad luck of the universe to eradicate me by now. Instead, I have Aaron. I almost have my second college degree. I have pets and art and plants and friends. I find myself expecting more and believing I deserve more than I ever did, when once I thought I'd be dead by now. What a wondrous thing, to find I have accidentally survived.

Oh, Max Schmeling was a formidable foe. The Ambling Alp was too; at least that's what I'm told.

There have been a few occasions that Sunday is accidentally called Belly. The first time it happened, I managed to gracefully move past the flub. But then my photos app made an automatic collage, and it was mostly photos of Belly when she was sick and one lone photo of Sunday. My formidable foe Grief flooded back for a good fifteen minutes. I curled up on the couch and cried and looked through photos of my Belly girl and just lost myself in missing her. Then the Ambling Alp of missing her was suddenly sharper, heavier. Instead of suffering alone, I peeled myself off the couch and went to the office and sat in front of Sunday, trying very hard to pull myself together.

Sunday headbutted me right in the eye and then started purring very hard. Every time I reached up to wipe my tears, she'd wack my hand with her paw and then rub my face with hers. Sometimes, you just don't even need the words. When those thunder clouds are cryin', and when those fireflies keep shining...

Sunday constantly meows, quietly, as I interact with her. She's very responsive. It took me a little while to see that my therapist is the same way. She is Japanese, and she communicates differently than I'm used to. The Japanese tend to use reactive tokens such as frequent nodding and making agreeable noises while they're listening to you. This is because silence can be mistaken as disagreement or lack of interest. The opposite is true, too; positive interjections during conversation can build rapport.

This is just not how Americans listen. We focus on eye contact, nodding, avoiding interruption, and interjecting sentences that convey concept comprehension when there are appropriate lulls. I tend to be a listen-talker: I interject and murmur and nod emphatically while someone else talks. I don't follow the turn-based conversation very well. I've long felt guilty for this, as though by my culturally abnormal attempts to build rapport and avoid seeming disinterested are negative traits that need replacing. I've only just begun to learn how much my ADHD has to do with that particular habit, and how far from abnormal I am. I'm just less American than expected. :)

Before Thanksgiving, my therapist surprised me by making me a cup of hibiscus tea. There wasn't a huge and elaborate tea ceremony, but it was a special tea blend and she used a special pot and cups. As we sipped tea, we sketched out our rough plan for the rest of the year, and laid tentative plans for the beginning of the next year. Part of the plan was for me to spend time ruminating on potential sources for my anxieties regarding the fictive audience. Do I carry anxieties because I am a woman, and the world expects certain things of women? What about witches? How about college students?

I might eventually get around to blogging about my witch shit. The 7-month blog draft ultimately boils down to this: The Sabbats offer a way to focus on the turning of the wheel of the year. Not out of fear of the onslaught of time, but out of celebration and acknowledgement of it. There is plenty room for the grief and the joy, the sorrow and the content. And Yule is particularly focused on the rebirth of the Sun God, as Mother Earth lays herself to rest in Winter. This aspect was incredibly important to me to ruminate on, as I am focusing on allowing myself to rest and renew in equal parts.

As far as my ADHD goes, maybe there's something to learn in the mist and the fog of unfocus. I recently got lost on a tangential four-hour Internet dive, looking for creepy teeth sculptures. My finds eventually lead me to several artists I want to follow on Instagram. The few who don't have a page, do have a hashtag; it is in one of these hashtags I find a collection of art pieces, one of which being a piece I had seen in 2016 at a gallery in CDA, Idaho, right before Aaron proposed to me. So now it's four hours later, I've finally taken my med, and the only thing I'm focused on is why I couldn't have just written the artists name down when I was there three and a half years ago. But if I had, then I wouldn't have had the gift of being struck in the heart by the same piece twice, as if laying eyes on it the first time wasn't enough. It needed a second entrance.

And as far as being struck in the heart goes, it is truly better to have loved at all, than to experienced a lack of it. Even if it means your best friend walks out on you after ten years. Even if it means you cradle your cat as she slips into the beyond. It is still better to have loved.

Operating on the idea of primacy and recency, we’re inclined to remember both the first and the last thing we’re shown, simply by merit of them having been first and last; we’re less inclined to remember the murky middle, and that’s where the violence and loss is conveniently tucked - a visual pocket of forgetfulness.

In the created tranquility of my therapists office, sipping delicious hibiscus tea carefully prepared for me, I have discussed my struggles with ADHD. It is the first and last thing that comes up, and is the easiest to discuss. I still struggle to admit to holding little value for my life. But at the end of my cup, I slurp - a purposeful gesture in honor of this imperfect life surrounding me. And so the Wheel turns, and a bright new phase will come to pass. One small marred moment of tranquility at a time.

Now the world can be an unfair place at times. But your lows will have their compliment of highs... And if anyone should cheat you, Take advantage of or beat you -

Raise your head!

Wear your wounds with pride. xo, Cate

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