Tribulations of an over-thinker (and Tantallon Castle)

Life Lessons, Scotland, Toronto

My brain has always worked at a pace I can’t ever get ahold of. Small worries turn into big worries which manifest new worries all together. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try. Just now, my heater made a little cracking sound. Instantly, I sat up, looked at it, switched it off, and moved to the other side my bed in case of possible explosion. Which turned into: if it explodes, will I survive? Have I accomplished everything I wanted to up until this point? I haven’t. What a sad death that would be. You know what would be a sadder one? If someone broke in and stole all my things and finished me off before leaving.

As you might’ve guessed, it’s generally negative things I over-think. To a less dramatic extent, let’s say at work, it often goes something like this: Oh no. I told someone I didn’t like their idea. Ugh look at their face. Their smile faded ever so slightly. Are they judging me? Are they upset that I said that? Will they ever enjoy working with me in the future? I hope I didn’t hurt their feelings. I’m worried I’ve made them feel awful.

 I’m hoping by now you get the picture. Not only is it absolutely useless to think in this anxious cycle of negativity, it’s bloody exhausting. Friendships, relationships, all the ships, are so stressful, not in and of themselves, but because my brain makes them that way.

I know, I know. I’m working on it. I really am.

I started seeing a therapist, which I really should’ve done much sooner, who is teaching me a little about acceptance. Acceptance that I am the way that I am, and I can’t do anything to change that fundamental piece of my brain. But I can learn to reprogram those negative thoughts into positive ones, simply by accepting that I am going to feel how I feel but also offering my head a new thought to snowball from. Something more positive.

It’s definitely a process. But I’ve finally had the epiphany that maybe being an over-thinker isn’t bad. It’s just a part of who I am. And there are so many positive facets of my personality that come along with the wheels turning so quickly in my brains. I’ve become more and more empathetic with time, since I think so much about how people are feeling about things. I’m also very good at my job and problem solving because of my innate gift to overanalyze every situation (which is wicked cool because my high school math teachers would argue that problem solving was never my strong suit).

All this thinking about overthinking leads me to remember the time I spent in a cabin by the sea in North Berwick, Scotland, and my visit to Tantallon Castle. I wrote about that adventure in a blog post a while back and it’s helping me to reevaluate myself a bit. What we think of as being flaws in our personality are actually what make us special. Everything we’ve been through in our lives has brought us to the point we are now with our mental health and ability to move forward. And it’s okay to feel broken. Like Tantallon Castle, destroyed in battle to almost complete ruin, it’s our broken bits that make us more beautiful, more unique.

I’m starting to gain a little more clarity on my brokenness, and I’m finding I’m not so broken after all. It’s just a part of who I am. A part that makes me a much more deep, dynamic, and aware person. The trick is, remembering these lessons, no matter how dark it starts to get.

 

How I’m really feeling right now

Life Lessons, Living Abroad, Poetry, Toronto

When I left Edinburgh, I cried tears not only for what I had to leave behind but also for everything I came to experience, to love. For all that I gained. But where is that woman I became so proud of overseas? Only remnants of her are left. I feel broken into hundreds of little pieces that I’ve been trying to force fit into a shape which no longer exists.

If a flower isn’t growing how it should, you move it to more favourable conditions for it to flourish. That’s a big lesson I’ve learned, one that seems to cross my mind regularly now, especially after travelling to Halifax and feeling real air, ocean air, salt spitting against my skin. Being so far away from it for so long has left me with a hole in my heart, the depth of which I can’t begin to describe. I know in my soul that there is more adventure and happiness ahead, but oftentimes the big city wares me down to believe I’ve reached my maximum potential and all that’s left is utter stagnancy.

Lately I’ve been afraid of being honest on my blog about how hard it’s been for me in the big city. I’ve tried to maintain an air of positivity about my personal purgatory but sadly, the happiness I feel here appears in small waves stifled by the overwhelming loneliness that comes from living in a place where people are often so disconnected from each other.

I realize it’s all about perspectives. Maybe I just feel this way now because I had a lovely weekend away in a place that has always felt more like home than Toronto. Maybe tomorrow everything will be easier. Depression has a way of doing that to you – suddenly tricking you to believe you’re much less happy than you are in a specific moment.

But the bottom line is, my soul is aching for more than what I think I can find where I’m waiting now, and I reckon it’s only a matter of time before the hundreds of pieces I’ve broken into fly too far away for me to bring back. The pieces that believe in the power of nature, loving everyone and smiling from dusk ‘til dawn every day.

If you’re reading this, I’m okay. Don’t ache for me or anyone else struggling a bit to cope. We’ve made it this far and we’ll continue on. Ache for the experiences you never had because you were too afraid to try. Ache for the people you never got to know because you were too proud to ask for their friendship. Ache for the love you never let yourself feel because anger is easier to bare than the possibility of being hurt. Ache for your life and strive to take the steps you never took before to move forward. That’s all I can do right now. Ache for the life I know would make me happy and strive to make it there as soon as I can.

My partner in crime is about to leave. And while we anticipate this next big step, it’s hard to accept the fact that someone who loves more parts of me than I do won’t be around for a long time. Before we even really got to know each other, he taught me more about myself than anyone ever has – about my propensity to dwell on my imperfections and about the depression that lurks within dark forgotten corners of my mind.

As we struggle to make something work, the romanticism of falling in love with someone from somewhere else has completely faded. The magic from our love has been beaten out of us by arbitrary borders that, from historical evidence, have done nothing but divide us and promote hatred and fear of others. Every time we take a step forward, we fall back several feet into the unforgiving concrete that is thousands of pages of paperwork, all written to keep families apart and force so many to suffer.

This may be the most poetic piece I’ll ever allow anyone to read. I don’t normally write like this, but to be honest, it’s the only way I can really describe what I’ve been feeling. Poetry is overindulgent. It allows writers to brood and extend their verses to anyone willing to listen and feel sympathy. I’ve never been much for producing it, let alone presenting it. But after hearing the pleas of others suffering as I do, as so many do, I’ve granted myself clemency to write freely and put forth the following poem. It’s a snapshot of a hard time from a couple years back. Reading it now and knowing I overcame one of my most prominent roadblocks, gives me hope that I’ll make it through this episode and be fine. It gives me hope that if I overcame my worst, my friends can too. My family can too. My love can too. You can too.

 

Low point

My brain currently thinks and feels in snippets.

Little moments that flash through my mind like lightning.

Quickly bursting and dissipating

leaving me feeling anxious and uncomfortable in my own skin.

I don’t trust myself anymore.

I don’t know myself anymore.

I don’t laugh anymore.

I just feel.

Desperately feel my insides eroding

and my happiness evaporating

and everything I love slipping through my fingers.

My eyes are open but sometimes I can’t focus on anything.

It’s like there’s a glass wall between reality and me

and I’m floating out into nothingness.

Put a Big Bird in a Small Cage

Life Lessons, Prose, Toronto

Since moving back to the hustle and bustle of the big city, I’ve not been doing much blogging. But that’s not to say I haven’t been doing much writing. I’ve successfully made a career out of something I both am good at and like to do. And I’m happy about that, for the most part.

You see, that whole annoying belief people have about doing what you love for work seemingly holds some validity. Once you turn something you love into a job, it becomes just that – a job. I’ve not been finding solace in writing for myself anymore, simply because I do it far too often for other people.

I am sad about all this. I miss seeing beautiful things and pouring my heart out in to a notebook. How am I to write poetry and prose about the beauty of nature from behind the walls of a concrete jungle?

Okay, yeah I know, I’m being overdramatic. Really, Toronto’s been good to me. And even though the big city can sometimes be overwhelming and cold, I’ve also met incredible people I’m lucky to call friends and have found a comfort in knowing there’s always something going on.

I’ve just moved to a new area steeped in colours, curious architecture and best of all, interesting and “interesting” people. There’s never a dull moment or dull wall this side of town (see graffiti photos below) and I’m feeling incredibly fortunate to have found such a great wee home.

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Sadly, besides all this greatness, I’m still having trouble coming up with innovative ways to inspire myself creatively. I’ve spent so long drawing inspiration from mountains and oceans and wildlife and inactive volcanoes, finding it in city streets spattered with litter, vomit and all matter of atrocious things has proven difficult.

But I recently felt a spurt of hope after listening to an old favourite tune. It’s called Big Bird in a Small Cage by Patrick Watson (shout out to Mel Lyon for introducing me all those years ago).

The song has always been one that I sing along to but never fully understand.

A line in the chorus goes: “you put a big bird in a small cage and he’ll sing you a song.”

In my mind, the whole song is about the birth of art and how perhaps the most beautiful creations come from a place of perceived suffocation. For the last couple years, my creative periods have occurred during a significant transition or when I have immersed myself in nature. Though big changes and wide-open spaces have played a large role in my soul-searching, I’m realising that being in a place I find small and uncomfortable may in fact lead me to produce more beautiful work than any amount of running space has granted me in the past. Perhaps it’s where we find ourselves least comfortable that we will learn the most.

So friends, I’ve turned a new leaf since deciding that my small cage (Toronto) won’t stop this big bird from writing and singing and blabbering on about things I’m sure you’ve all already figured out. But, you know me. It takes me a long time to come to simple conclusions.

Tori, signing off for now but not for good.

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On the plane to Toronto

Life Lessons, Living Abroad, Scotland

 

I don’t want to be on this plane. I never wanted to be on this plane.

 

No, not just because the assholes in front of me have reclined all the way back to the point where I’ve spilled my rum and coke (I went for it). But mainly because I feel like I’m being ripped away from a home I could have easily spent many more years in. I feel like I’m being dragged away from a new family kicking and screaming, but without the dramatics.

 

It’s easy for everyone to tell me this isn’t the end but a new beginning and it’s tempting to think of it that way. But to me, to negate this ending is to erase the whole experience I’m leaving behind me. It IS an ending. It’s an ending to my time in a city that helped me become a much better person. It’s an ending to many friendships that I fought hard to cultivate and an ending to walking past architecture, green-space, and spots that hold hundreds of significant and not-so memories. It’s an ending, no matter how you package it.

 

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Although leaving Edinburgh is an ending, I know that moving to Canada isn’t necessarily moving back, but moving forward. But I don’t want to. If I’m being honest, I feel like living in Edinburgh brought out the best in me. It helped me heal from an intense depression I didn’t even recognise I had until moving away. It helped me rekindle a love of reading and writing I thought was snuffed out for good. It built my confidence up higher than I ever thought it could have and it introduced me to some of the most inspiring people I have ever met.

 

I had a conversation with an incredibly wise friend while sharing our worries about the future in the Highlands last year. I expressed to him how I thought it was silly that I was nervous to move back to a place I associate with my worst self, when I’m sure it’s not so much Scotland that changed me but more so the lessons I learned while living there.

 

As he is one of the most honest people I know, he said something like this:

 

“Think of yourself how you might think of a flower that’s wilting in a corner of your living room. Generally you wouldn’t blame the flower for not flourishing, but blame its environment. Move the flower to a sunnier spot and perhaps it’ll grow stronger and more beautiful.”

 

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That’s how I feel about my move–well not moving to a sunnier spot, obviously, but one more equipped to bring me joy. Edinburgh and the people I surrounded myself with there encouraged me to blossom from a sad and wilted orchid (I like orchids) into one everyone would opt to purchase from their local florist.

 

I suppose what I take from this is that not everywhere in this world can help you to grow an amazing amount, but I guess that doesn’t mean you can’t grow a little from these places. Sure, I’m going back to a city I have negative feelings towards, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t regard it as an opportunity to learn and move forward. Currently I’m considering Toronto a positive purgatory where I can build up the mental stability and resources necessary to continue my exploring. I have an idea of the type of city or town that helps me to be the most positive version of myself, and being around family and old friends I love and enduring the busyness of a big city will more than likely help me get to my next home faster.

 

I will miss you, Edinburgh. After taking all I could take from your people, I’ve decided the most important lessons I’ve learned from living in you are self-love, acceptance, and patience. I hope that this time around in Canada I’ll grow in ways I didn’t expect. Maybe Toronto will envelope me in positivity the same way Edinburgh took me in and nurtured me for two beautiful years.

 

Scotland, I will never forget you: the challenging and dark beginning of loneliness and internal struggles, the educational middle full of healing, smiles, and new friends, and the end when I finally learned how to feel stable and balanced while living in the present.

 

I’m only 26, I’m not kidding myself. I know years or even just months from now I’ll probably reread this and think how foolish I was to be so nervous of moving to Canada. Tracking my progress through my writing has made me proud of my growth every step of the way, and I’m excited to face what’s next head on with the grace, confidence, tenacity, and love Scotland has instilled in me.

 

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