Portmanteaux Series: 4
The Portmanteaux Series is a short collection of personal writing to celebrate and encapsulate the memory of the beginning of my career writing online, a little over a decade ago I had the plan to start publishing my content online, which quickly became a blog about life. Every Friday I wrote about what I learned, what I didn’t learn and what I could teach to my peers.
I’ve since stopped writing in this manner, but given the circumstance I wanted to get one more good run in before I hang up the “lifestyle” writing for good. Lifeis+ 2023 is a celebration and it is also a funeral.
I’m glad you are in attendance.
I wasn’t always afraid of spiders. I’m still not necessarily afraid but I do give them a wide berth now.
A version of me who is no longer me would pluck them from the wall, or floor, or packing box and deposit them somewhere safe. In the bushes outside they would be removed from my presence and didn’t need to be smashed to bits. That was until I became the me that I’ve since become, and it no longer feels like I have the time to move them.
It is so much easier to execute them where they stand, and I wonder in those moments when I became so obsessed with how much time I could save in order to get from A to B.
The older we get, the shorter the years feel. With each passing year, our perception of time grows fat with experience and as a result the coming years seem shorter and shorter. A week of hard work when you are fifteen is much worse than when you are twenty-eight, by then you’ve already been working full time for a decade.
I wonder if the spiders in my house feel that way.
In my most recent, and shortest year to date, we moved into a new house which was riddled with spiders and had a (small) mouse infestation. Our move was decided for us because the house came with a yard for our pups which we could finally let them run and play to their hearts content without needing to be out beside them.
Among the chaos of the prior year, moving into this house was a new start. With a new space and a slowly healing mentality I thought it would mark the start of something new for me. It did, but not what I thought.
Instead of being the dramatic escape from mental turmoil I craved, it was instead the catalyst for my sudden fear of arachnids and home to a sink cabinet we don’t use because I’m too lazy to clean up the mouse poop.
Our dogs are happy though, and I think that matters.
What’s more, is that the house did help me but it didn’t happen at all as I’d imagined. In the new place I rededicated myself to things, and made plans for projects I’d not made before. I took to decorating with my wife and I celebrated our collection of plants. We started practicing with our heeler to leave him out of his kennel all day and sometimes he poops inside and sometimes he doesn’t and he’s learning like the rest of us.
Some of us didn’t get the training we needed.
In the grand scheme of things, since last spring, the world is entirely different to me than it was before. In my journey from a crumbling seaside getaway to a mind flooded by my doubts and anxieties, I’m learning to swim.
I have the spiders to thank for that, to some extent.
We’ve been at the new place for a few odd months now and I’ve still been wary of the spiders rooting around our cabinets but I don’t seek to destroy them like I used to. I think that’s a positive change, but it echoes something my wife has said to me time and time again. She likes to tell me I’m a “black and white dude” as if I can’t see the grey area between things. A sentiment which I’ve long disagreed with.
I look for endings and beginnings in everything. I don’t need to look for the middle, I’m always living there. But when things end it’s exciting and sad. It’s a time for growth and for change. Its a sign from some outside force that it is time to move on. It is a thousand crawling spiders telling me it is time to move on. When things begin, it is a refreshing exchange. It is a new morning of sunlight over the basin. It is my heeler holding his bladder through the night until one of us can let him out. It’s a sign that it is time to get going.
When the world tells me it is time for something to end, I let it. When a friend decides to step away and leave me plainly wondering why our relationship died, I rarely have sought to pursue it further. When someone forces themselves into my life and works to be a part of mine, I allow it because that isn’t something I’ve ever been interested in controlling.
I cherish the people in my circle. I always have and always will, though, recent discoveries about myself have led me to understand the method in which I’ve built my relationships in a new way.
Boundaries are hard, especially when you are me. If I encounter a situation which makes me uncomfortable or uneasy, I don’t want to set the boundary because I don’t know how to do it plainly and gently. On the other hand, when the moment has passed and I am no longer uncomfortable I have no need to establish a boundary because there is nothing to bind.
This isn’t exceptionally healthy behavior, but hey, I’m roughing it with no therapy out here. You take what you can get.
This mentality has permeated nearly every aspect of my life. I stopped smoking cigarettes officially when I met my wife. I started vaping to maintain the nicotine addiction. I stopped vaping when a vape exploded in my mouth. Now, four weeks out, I’m using pouches to get a smattering of nicotine while I anxiety spiral about the state of my health in a world with dog water healthcare options.
For years I refused to call things “finished” unless I felt like they were finished. Adamantly I believed there would be some kind of sign telling me that such and such phase of my life was over and I could move on in peace but that is quite simply not the way life works. I have spent years chasing endings and beginnings and all the while letting the stuff in the middle get muddy.
This isn’t a writ to say that I’ve changed in some grand manner, that I woke up this morning and my fear of spiders is abolished or that I’ve taught myself how to interact in a healthy way with my friends. This isn’t about how I’m no longer the man who wrote “The Great Spring” on the verge of a complete mental collapse. It’s to tell you that the Spring is still going, but it is better.
I’ve changed a lot since my last birthday and I am still changing, but I am still the same man I always was. Just better defined. More experienced.
Still watching the world for signs to change, but the longer I seem to live the harder it gets to see those signs. The world was never designed to instruct us on anything. One way or another, our youth was filled with signposts and guides and people who could help us and it was our job then to listen, and sometimes I did.
Sometimes, I didn’t. Those are the times that brought me here.
I don’t mean to the verge of erasure, either. I mean to the edge of healing. I’ve never been good at listening to instruction. Anyone who knows me half well knows I don’t like rules.
I like killing spiders, but I want to set them free.
The black and white of my being comes in the waves of what I present to the world. Sometimes I am all white and altruism, filled to the brim with the desire to help and to heal and to be a positive force in the world.
Sometimes I’m all black and shadow and self loathing with nothing inside but the desire to squash myself under my own shoe in the depths of the night.
The grey I am is the movement between those two places. Somewhere between killing the spider and letting it bite me before I drop it in our dirt garden out front.
Our first week in our new house, I killed three black widows and what I was fairly certain was a hobo spider all within a six day span. From then on I was suspicious of every crack in the wall and shadow in a cereal box, but my heeler wasn’t.
He fearlessly chases down every spider, centipede, bird and squirrel he sees. Even if they could hurt him, he doesn’t care. It’s in his blood. He loves the chase and the capture and what might happen isn’t a thought in his head.
In that way, he and I are both a little black and white. He chases and I chase. I chase memories and hopes and plans. He gets anxious around too many people just like I do, and he makes messes inside the house because he doesn’t have the training necessary to keep from doing it. I’m the same way, but my house is my heart and sometimes I listen to it too much.
Sometimes I don’t listen to it enough.
I’m trying to kill less spiders. I’m trying to set more boundaries. I’m trying to show the grey parts of me more.
It takes a lot of training.
Portmanteaux Part Five comes out tomorrow morning:
Bifurcategorized: Searching for Meaning in Two
Thank you for participating once more in the Lifeis+ celebration. I’ve got a lot to celebrate this time around so you’ll be hearing from me often. If you’d like to read more, you can check out me current fiction project Sisters of Westwinter & The Portmanteaux Series below!
More from me:
Breaking a Promise (My Favorite Flowers: 2)
In a garden somewhere, not quite here and not quite anywhere, there is a boy who has cried his eyes away.
Seeing Someone Learn (My Favorite Flowers: 1)
In a garden somewhere, not quite here and not quite anywhere, there’s a boy who is afraid of eyes.
SOW: Chapter Five, Part Five: A Single Spark
The Nail Ward, as they called it, was as miserable as it looked from the outside. The thousands of needles covering the floor and walls made it impossible to relax, and sleep was terribly out of the question. So Kerrick stood in the corner waiting, patiently, for the sunrise.
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