It's been an awful August. I was just told I will not be getting paid for my time off work. Even though I've been repeatedly encouraged to take as much time as I need for my health by my managers, my wife, and even myself, I've felt rushed to go back. I thought that I wouldn't need to be back to full health, just healthy enough to work again. Just use a Potion, not a Hyper Potion. Carrie and I are able to survive off of one income, but it's little wonder why people don't take the time they need to get their health in check. Who knows? Maybe I won't go back until Carrie graduates. My health comes first. Moving on.

Something that has been on my mind this month was this explosion in my life that I referred to in my previous post. What I've been wrestling with is whether or not I should write honestly about it. I wrote about being sexually abused as a child almost a full year ago, and ever since, I've been sharing as openly as is helpful to my readers and to myself. However, this particular explosion is very difficult to explain. I don't fully understand it myself, and I'm not sure it would help others to read about it. I've written things before in a very plain way that people have misunderstood and confronted me about, and it's kind of confusing when I have to restate things that people have read here multiple times. Yes, I also wrote about my family abusing me, which many people could have misunderstood and probably still do. However, that was a reclamation of my life, choosing myself over my family for once. Victims of abuse often quietly and willingly obey when they are silenced, but I had to fight back in order to regain my life. I don't feel that way with this recent eruption, so I don't necessarily feel the need to air all my dirty laundry this time. Carrie hasn't ignored my needs for decades, so I don't have an unmet need to be heard. Secrets can be healthy.

One way of oversimplifying this recent event is that Carrie and I wanted opposite things. It felt like a sniper shot into our absolutely most vulnerable areas. There was no way for either of us to get what we wanted at the same time and we changed our minds numerous times, which felt like that awkward shuffle when two people walk towards each other on the same path. She was being selfish, and I was being too generous. She was going to full time work and full time school, and I have been dealing with my problems full time. I'm in the most vulnerable state that I have ever been in, and Carrie is not far off from that either. As mentioned earlier, I am not getting paid, so our income was cut in half. Further, Carrie had to take time off work to go to mandatory classes this month, so we got paid even less than that. We are facing intense pressure, but it looks like we're pulling out of the perfect storm now. It was also our wedding anniversary in August, so that only amplified the hurt.

What have we learned through this time? Two opposing ideas can exist at once in our lives. Carrie and I can be in love and war at the same time. While we are betraying each other's trust, we are drawing closer to each other more than we ever have. While we hurt each other more deeply than ever, we are forgiving each other faster and more frequently than we ever have in our 12 years of being together. We are each other's opponent and ally. We've had a thousand conversations this August. We covered many topics: insecurities, hopes, past hurt, commitment, fairness, and much more! Every day was a struggle. We would change sides at least once a day. We debated and negotiated. We gave up and then kept trying. We slept on it and we fought through the night. We ambushed each other and talked it through. We lied and confessed. We threw out the rule book and then went back to it. Now that we're here and looking back, I don't really know how we survived. Did we?

One way I'm learning to cope is to live in the moment. It's like meditating but doing it anywhere and anytime. If ever I'm facing extreme emotional pain, I focus on being entirely present. I forget about the past and future, and then I focus on my current physical senses. I look at my surroundings, I feel my body within my clothes, I just listen. I silence my internal monologue and the criticizing voices. I drop all my hopes and desires, and then I just be. It sounds very hippy-like, but it helps me. Sometimes people talk about going to a happy place in their minds, but instead, I make my happy place to be wherever I am in that moment. Activities are often used as conduits to this state of mind. It's also called mindfulness, which is one driver behind the recent adult colouring book craze. My dad goes to the sauna whenever he's in town, and the physical sensation of heat forces him to drop his thoughts and be present in the uncomfortable heat. Some people cruise on the highway, some go boating and fishing, some get drunk. However, I can't depend on mindfulness to remove the pain entirely. If there are ways of eliminating discomfort from heat/cold, hunger, tiredness, etc., then I should do those things too. But there is always a practical point beyond which the pain cannot be managed. In those cases, I remove my identity from my problems, and all I am is a person sitting somewhere, observing his world. Past and future are constructs of the mind, so separating ourselves from our thoughts allows us to escape our worries about the future (anxiety) and past (depression). I always thought being more effective was squeezing more out of the time I had, but now I'm learning to consciously escape the burden of time by default and to use the constructs of past and future as tools.

I apologize if this post is far too vague and confusing, but I'm already having trouble talking to people about the finer details just to get through each day, let alone exposing them to the Internet. Two opposing things can exist at once. Carrie and I can help and hurt each other. I can squeeze more from my limited time in life, yet I can also escape it entirely through mindfulness. I can keep a secret but I can still talk about it.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le