The Three-Week Point
Remind me to rate this hostel two stars out of a possible five. I can't get on either of the three wifi networks and so I'm drafting this in Write 2. I likely won't remember to post it tomorrow, when I can get wifi somewhere else, but hey, I can try.
Anyway, hello internet.
I know it's been a long time. My entries have been sparse and hardly descriptive and deeply emotionally charged since I came home from Asia. Because I can no longer pretend to have it all together - not because I'm a mess because of my circumstances nor my circumstances a mess because of me, as neither is the case - I think I'm ready to talk about where I am right now, as uncertain and true as it is. Now is the time. Not because I'm reaching out from a pedestal of huge success, nor because I'm reflecting upon happier times from a place that resembles rock bottom. I'm trying to trust in the process, and be patient with the journey. Like with meditation, failure is success. It's all relative to me now, really. Failure and success become the definition of arbitrary when you're striving for something no one understands, and can only be equated to a feeling, recognizable by only you.
I'm pecking away at this from the dirty, grimy common room of a hostel in downtown Victoria. I got here this afternoon, via double-decker bus which followed a ferry from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal at the top of "the peninsula," located near the southern tip of Vancouver Island, BC. I'm here after spending the first half of this week on Salt Spring Island, which I travelled to via the Crofton ferry terminal on Sunday afternoon. If you don't know where Crofton is, I don't blame you. It's a tiny little town that sports a government sign to explain its purpose; it's still regarded as a "fishing village" according to those-up-high who make decisions about permanent signs. I paid a gentleman driving back down to Victoria from Nanaimo $10 on HitchPlanet to take me down, and enjoyed stories from a Tim Hortons-addicted stranger alongside changing trees. Once I got to Salt Spring, I met Krista, my Airbnb host. She gave me a hug and a ride up to her house in the trees, and once we got there, I revelled in the sweet privilege of rolling around alone in a bed made for two, for the first time since I came back west. I concluded my three-day excursion to the largest of the magical Gulf Islands with a hike up Mount Maxwell (as suggested by Krista) and a peaceful write-and-ponder by the sunny sea, at Fulford Harbour. For the rest of my time there? I checked out four potential "winter cabins", as somewhere along the way here I decided that spending the winter writing in isolation among nature would be good for my soul (and my upcoming manuscript). I got so close to cinching that reality in my small hands, but alas…
The three-week point. I met a woman named Sabrina on the way to Victoria on the bus today, who told me that every time she begins a new writing project, it goes well for her creatively until she hits the three-week point. Then, she told me, "I'm convinced that my writing sucks and no one will read it and why am I even doing this in the first place?" It made me think of a nameless quote I found on Instagram earlier this year, that described the creative process in this way (see below):
I checked into this shitty hostel and realized, as I shivered under my thin blanket with no bed sheets (again, two stars - I did get bed sheets eventually along with the wifi password a few hours later) in fetal position, that for the first time on this trip I was having trouble taking up space. I felt small. I'd just made the awful realization that I couldn't think of anyone who would pick up the phone right at that particular moment - guaranteed - if I had decided to call, and hear me out completely on the other end whether or not it was an emergency. I'm talking about dropping everything, no matter what they're doing, and being there for me. Where I wouldn't have to justify my call with a tragedy happening on my end, nor would they be expecting a tragedy or worrying about me like I was a human tornado or broken vial of volatile substance. They wouldn't assume I'm a broken anything. They would just listen. Without judgement, without fear. They would give me a hug through the phone, and hold me if they could be any closer.
This seems to be a tall order to fill in this day and age, because everyone claims to be busy even if they aren't and being busy is still so glorified. But tall order or not, I began to wonder about it honestly, because it occurred to me that this is the kind of unconditional love I give to those close to me, without question. For the people whom I consider my closest friends, I would drop anything if they called to talk, needed to talk, about anything. It isn't because I'm a people-pleasing, desperate, submissive person, nor is it a mindless force of habit from how I was raised, because it wasn't from my family where I learned that this kind of love can exist. I am willing to do this because I personally view being trusted as the highest possible honour someone can give you. I do not take it lightly. And so when people want to talk, I listen. I try not to judge. I try not to fix it. And devastatingly, I critically began to wonder why no one can do that for me. I wondered why I was so difficult to listen to, why I've found it so unbearably hard to prove myself worthy of time and affection in my short life thus far, and why if I was willing to do this wholeheartedly for the people close to me, how come none of them would for me? I tried to think back to a time when I was so busy I couldn't think, couldn't care for myself properly. It's been a couple of years but I distinctly remember times where I would still put everything down and listen when I was given the chance to do so for others, while still being busy. I also remember frantically trying to find people to listen to me then too, in a compassionate, nonjudgmental way. My efforts were not always fruitful. I was so vulnerable, and so desperate to be heard, that the times when I was misheard were far more damaging to me emotionally than my more common fate of being ignored.
As I often do when I'm at a low point, I thought about my father. It saddened me. I went back to a place I haven't been since I was a teenager; it's been almost a decade since he died. I have conversations with my father's spirit often, and you could even say I talk to him more now than I did when he was alive. This wasn't a conversation like that, though. For one, I couldn't even talk. It was mid-afternoon and it would have been dirt-poor etiquette if I were to wake a fellow traveller in her nearby bunk as she slept. It didn't stop me from crying though, a lot, and those tears were not of the freeing kind even if they were overdue. I tapped back into my teenage pain, the world on my shoulders again as it was then. I remembered things I didn't want to remember. Conversations. Confrontations. Blame. Shame. There were details about that time in my life which I tried all this time to bury, but lately they've been resurfacing, and for good reason: my pursuit of a winter cabin is my simultaneous pursuit of slow, steady predictability, meant to allow me to face my past in a new, safe place. It makes sense that these memories I've suppressed for the majority of my formidable years want me to honour them properly now in print, but wow. I didn't think it was possible for a person to carry so much pain. (Still.) And to think, most of that pain was what was put on my shoulders in 2006, when I was fifteen and told about my father's cancer over the phone. I know that to write about it is my way of choosing the high road. It's my way of objectifying the past, so I can make it useful for me instead of having it be the weight that holds me down and back. I've given enough time and opportunities to my suffering. I want to put an end to it, finally - without dying.
Failure and success become the definition of arbitrary when you're striving for something no one understands, and can only be equated to a feeling, recognizable by only you. Or, in my case, recognizable only by myself and my late father. My father was the only person I've ever known who would drop whatever he was doing in a heartbeat and be there with me, for me. Listen to me. Understand me. He is the only person I've ever known who has carried this kind of pain the same way. In fact, on my more cynical days I think the pain I'm carrying was his to begin with, and maybe in a future where I'm wiser I hope to wholeheartedly accept that truth with grace. But not now. Now, or at least at the point I'm at now, I'd give everything I have back to the universe in order to speak with my father. I want to hear his voice, look into the yellowed whites of his black-brown eyes to watch him listen to me when I talk. I want his hands around my tiny ones because they kept mine warm through bitter Albertan winters. And I really, REALLY fucking wish his gold ring with the diamond dug out of it was still on his finger, shining in all of its glory, instead of strung around my neck on a brass chain. I don't want to be at Swiss Chalet on MacLeod again because that was one of the last places we had dinner together and that conversation, and my memories of it, still shatter my heart. But I do want another opportunity to be near him again in some capacity, in my selfishness, my childishness, and the irrationality I still possess as someone who still grieves, a decade and many lifetimes after that loss. My father did what he could to give everything to his little girl. Yes, I was spoiled. Yes, I was the favourite. But the stuff, all the stuff, mattered so little to me even then. It was like a part of me always knew I'd have to make a horrible trade. What's different about me now compared to then? Not a lot. I was given material things to make up for missing intangible things. Now I have material things to make up for a missing intangible thing. My father - listening, understanding, loving. I've been all around the world, a permanent tourist wherever I go. There is no more lustre. No place can replace my Dad.
Today (Wednesday) is my three-week point. I left Calgary three weeks ago, and as uncomfortable as this feels right now, I know I can't look back; I'm a hundred times better on the road than I am anywhere near the vicinity of my hometown. I'm trying to trust in the process, and be patient with the journey. I fell asleep after I cried my life into a flat pillow sans pillowcase. Woke up a good ninety minutes or so later. I went down to the front desk to collect my overdue bedsheets and a towel I hope was clean. Then, I decided to walk around. I'm delightfully surprised that Victoria isn't that much like Ottawa at all, since I didn't care for that city when I went. I'm happy with how quiet it is at night and how safe it feels. It isn't always clean, but it has edge. It has life. It's the most feminist city in Canada according to whatever thing I read recently that said so (this one). And I'm looking forward to seeing it tomorrow, in daylight, when I go back out again. It ended up being a good night after all. One for the books, I'd say. There are things I've done and seen while traveling that I've realized are memories so precious and irreplaceable because they belong to only me. Travel teaches important lessons very slowly. It's hard to learn any of them if you aren't mindful. And while I won't always win, get what I want, or make the best plans/follow through with them, my goal right now is to be wherever I am, focused on whatever it is I'm doing. Because I can no longer pretend to have it all together - not because I'm a mess because of my circumstances nor my circumstances a mess because of me, as neither is the case - I'm ready for that now. Completely. I'm over making things look nice or only speaking up to give compliments. I've never given less of a fuck about what people think of me, and that's one shrinking fuck I'm thankful for. I'm okay. I don't always believe it. I don't always see it. In time, I'll end up where I'm supposed to.