Make Me Smile With My Heart

There came a point when Valentine’s Day just provoked a weary cynicism in me.

At the time, I justified it to myself with the usual excuses, whether it was that love shouldn’t be celebrated just one day a year but all of them, or that it was a fake holiday created to sell cards and chocolates — which may be true, but at the same time, what’s wrong with that if it gives some people something to smile about…? The truth of the matter was, I suspect, more likely to be that I knew on some level that I was in a relationship that I didn’t want to be in, and one that I didn’t want to celebrate.

To be fair, it wasn’t as if I’d had the greatest history with Valentine’s Day as a whole; I’d spend them in turmoil when I was a kid, secretly hoping to get one from a secret admirer just so’s it would mean that I had a secret admirer, and then try and play it cool when that never happened. I honestly can’t remember if I ever sent any cards in high school; I had a million crushes at any particular moment, but I suspect that I didn’t send anything in the fear that my secret be figured out and I’d have to be rejected in person.

(I had a somewhat lonely childhood, in retrospect.)

I was, then, primed to distrust Valentine’s as a holiday, with that distrust and disbelief growing as my marriage atrophied around me. It became easier to half-ass even making a nod to it — dinners postponed because of work (on her part; she’d like to work into the night, often, hiding in her office or behind her laptop), plans never fulfilled. After all, what was the point…?

A few weeks ago, I got an invite to a thing for work that was genuinely exciting but would’ve meant that I would be out of town on Valentine’s Day, and I knew I had to decline, purely because the idea of not being with Chloe on that day felt so wrong. I’m writing this a week ahead of the actual day, and we don’t have any set plans yet, but it’ll be enough for me — it’ll feel right, again, using such vague, emotional terms — to just be with her on the day this year. My cynicism is thawing, and I’m ready to become a believer again.

It feels nice. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Please Excuse Me While I Hide Away

I’m reminded of that adage about most plans not surviving first contact with the enemy, except that, in this case — as in most, let’s be honest — the enemy in question happens to be reality. So it goes.

Thanks to the suggestion of podcast partner and all-round good egg Jeff Lester, I decided at the start of the year to keep track of what I’ve been reading. He’s been doing this for some time, and I was, if not jealous of his organizational skills, at least curious to see if I could do something similar given (a) how much I read, and (b) how casually (read, “chaotic”) said reading tends to be. If nothing else, I thought, it’ll be an interesting exercise.

Within a week, I’d lost track of the whole thing.

The trick, I realized fairly early, was that I needed to update pretty immediately; trying to reconstruct after a week, going on my digital footprint and a pile of things by my bed wasn’t going to cut it, as much as I still hoped otherwise. If nothing else, that ignored the random comic issues that would accompany me into the bathroom in the middle of the day, or the glance-throughs first thing in the morning or last thing at night that turn into reading binges.

(And that’s ignoring the things I end up reading for work that I always fail to remember, because they are for work; if you knew how many issues of Birds of Prey and related comics I’ve read in the last month…!)

Instead, my list for January is… simultaneously lengthy and threadbare, missing all manner of things that I’ve simply forgotten. Not the finest start to the experiment, but then, January wasn’t the finest start to the year in general. This month, I’ve been better about things (I think), and the picture it’s painting is… pretty much what I’d expected, in terms of how uneven and random my reading has turned out.

I think, in a strange way, that’s a plus. I’m a flighty reader, curious and unable to sit still for too long, and this is definitely reflected in my lists, but that hummingbird nature fits my work, and lets me turn away towards something fun when necessary. If I keep this up, it’ll be interesting to see what trends emerge over the year as a whole.

Hidden in Plain Sight

The most surprising thing about the dream, really, may be that it happened at all. I generally don’t remember dreams these days — something I put down to sleeping well, although perhaps it’s just being forgetful — so to have this as fresh in my mind as it was when I woke up was entirely unexpected. (That I awoke at 4:30am with it in my head, equally so.)

Earlier in the week,  my therapist had asked about the most recent act of cruelty by my ex-wife, and said essentially, why aren’t you more angry? There was a reason of sorts, I told her; the very day after I’d found out about it, my health nosedived for a week and that acted as a pretty effective distraction from everything else — I was too busy feeling worried about how sick I was, and being kind of delirious in the process. I didn’t have a chance to get beyond being sad, I explained, and by now it felt as if I’d had the opportunity to talk myself out of being mad.

My dream suggests otherwise. I won’t go into too much detail, but it’s enough to say that it was a dream in which I visited the old house again as she was in the process of moving out, and got to see her express the latent cruelty of her actions in full flame, like some melodramatic movie villain.

The overall effect of it was… disturbing, I guess, would be the right word. Not because of anything this dream manifestation said or did, because she was cartoonishly drawn and more than slightly pitiful in just how callous she came across; instead, I’m shaken because the dream made it clear to me just how much pain and anger is in my head about her behavior.

It’s not unwarranted, I should add; I don’t feel shaken because that attitude feels unreasonable or too much on my part. Rather, I’m disturbed because it came out in that manner as opposed to any other way, and I don’t like the idea that my subconscious has this trapped inside it, while the rest of me can’t quite access it or process it properly. I’d say I need therapy, but even my therapist is probably wondering about this one.

And Tell Him Twice

The first THR newsletter graphics of the year have finally arrived! I’m amused that there was so many similar subjects being covered. (There’s 2 — technically 3 — graphics for the movie version of Ex Machina being planned, and 2 for the new Bad Boys movie.)

And then, two variations on the same graphic, because no-one could work out which headline they wanted…