the power of obligation

Last month, I was contacted by three people I would rather not have engaged with, but I did so anyway. Why?


An obligation, I suppose you could say. All three of these people were folks I’d had a habit of chatting with quite frequently and excitedly at some point in the past. At a later date, all three made me feel not OK in major ways for reasons that I’ll refrain from getting into detail here.

Somehow, I felt that I would or could make things worse by not saying anything in response to their contact, in case they didn’t understand why I didn’t want to be contacted (even though I communicated to each of them what was amiss). Our past interactions inspired me to respond, too.



There’s a sense of finality in breaking ties with people, whether it’s speaking to them less, or going your own way, online, offline or both. It can make things uncomfortable if you have friends in common, and/or frequent similar social circles. It can cast a shadow over anyone’s day.


Not breaking ties is tempting. It’s an ‘engage anyway’ button that a good chunk of folks tend to push perhaps without fully realising it, and it almost always comes at a cost to the one pushing it.



When folks do something wrong, there can be an assumption in play that we should just carry on as though nothing has happened, and move on. That it’s not worth the bother. I’m trying fiercely to break this habit, at least in the sense that I don’t speak up when something’s not quite right.

Part of moving on for me involves dealing with the thing, if it’s within my ability to. At the very least, I want those around me to acknowledge they’re aware of it. I would want to know if I mucked something up so I could fix it, if possible. (I am very aware not everyone shares this feeling.)

At best, the problem lies within a simple miscommunication that can be smoothed out if and when all parties involved are receptive to talking about it. At worst, one side shuts down when such news is being relayed, which usually leads to resentment, questioning safety, and other negatives.



Practice does not necessarily make perfect, but it should make better in a number of cases.

It’s rough finding ways to let people know you’re not OK, especially if you’re seen by others as a person who is relatively strong of will and/or are used to going a lot of things alone. Keep this in mind: even strong people can break when you think that they’re merely bending.


August ’07, Indianapolis

Please consider being receptive to constructive criticism, even if it’s just to allow the person giving the criticism space, and to give you space to mull the information over awhile. Even if they’re parting words, and even if it hurts. Within that hurt is the opportunity to learn. We’re works in progress, and it’d be foolhardy to assume we’ve got it all figured out.

Please also tell yourself – maybe more than once – that it’s alright to disengage when you feel it necessary, nostalgia be damned. Holding onto memories of the good times serves little purpose if it’s being invoked during repeats of harmful behaviour, whether said behaviour is intended or not.


One obligation we have and often forget is the obligation to ourselves, to our hearts and to our well-being. Those obligations are simply not possible to fulfill if we keep offensive actions in our lives.

Part III in a personal blog series about interactions on the internet.

Part II:

no you don’t

Loyalty is one hell of a thing.


I maintain that we human beings sometimes do some silly things in the name of it, for reasons political, romantic and otherwise.


Loyalty is said to be an admirable trait, one heavily sought. Less often discussed is loyalty that is sought and gets taken advantage of.



I have spent most of my life working hard to keep someone in my corner who doesn’t seem to give me the same care or attention. My loyalty towards this person has been a long-established thing, and every time they (hopefully unintentionally) hurt me, I can’t find the words or way to justify getting them out of my sight. I’m not even sure they’d listen if I told them what was up.


In the several months I went through therapy, I learned to feel okay with releasing years of suppressed emotion. Most of this has to do with the aforementioned someone, some doesn’t.

At times, the suppressed emotions will come out at random — in the past, through uncomfortable and of course unwelcome panic attacks. I’ve overcome these with help from supportive friends (including my herbalist), and practicing talking myself down when they occur (example: breathing exercises, saying aloud ‘it’s okay, it’s going to be okay’).

More recently my mind sometimes wanders to old memories I wasn’t finished sorting through, which can result in me needing to take a short break from work or assorted activities until I get to feeling better. I tend to overwhelm myself with piles of things to do so I can feel I’m being productive, so taking a breather is something I should be doing out of habit anyway.

Bit by bit, the layers I’ve hidden away are coming loose, and I’m finding I’m stronger than ever.


The highest hurdle of all will be to detach myself from the someone for whom I’ve reserved a corner, if necessary. The trick is to suss out if my loyalty’s going to a place where it can be nurtured, or in the trash left to its own devices, because it’s something that’s expected of me.

my heart isn’t ready

It’s been a fortnight.

I realised that I had been mourning my relationship before it even officially ended, ignoring verbal protests. When our summer travelling ceased, there were no longer any distractions from facing the rifts that ripped open the very core of what we once meant to each other.

April ’12, Seattle, Washington – photo by Kayleigh

Anchor wasn’t a simpleton. The very act of saying “I don’t think it’s a good idea to continue this relationship” didn’t shock him in any way that I’m aware of; all it yielded was a shrug and a murmur. I also happen to be terribly expressive without talking. I don’t pretend to know or speak for him, but perhaps he had been mourning something too.

The interactions to follow grew tense on both ends, however, and I have made myself scarce.

Food intake and sleep have both been compromised due to going from friend’s place to friend’s place (though I remain grateful for the ability to). I’ve already lost ten pounds.

Looking for a new safe space has proven unsuccessful thus far. I’m not seeking a quick fix solution, but something long-term, sustainable. I still love my job, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I was happy for excuses to think about other things for 8+ hours out of the day.

Three years gone. My second longest relationship. There’s only so long I can feign that I’m infallible, and that I’m stronger than all this bollocks, don’t you think?

A few people have asked, “what happened?” Most of them haven’t bothered asking me anything else when I didn’t offer any sordid details. Sometimes things just don’t work out.

I’m not sure what it is about being single that others pick up on. It could be coincidence, but there have been a good deal of incidents lately to suggest otherwise. It’s been… educational.

I won’t lie. I’ve been known as a serial dater. I’ve gone as long as a year without seeing anyone else, but I’ve also lasted as short as an hour or so. An irresponsible hedonist, if you will. That too could be part of the reason for the surge in aggressive activity towards me.

Over the years, it’s been more difficult to take on that persona, especially while in long-term relationships. No discounting the interactions, but three relationships of mine should’ve been established much later than they were, if at all. Time is absolutely necessary to grieve.

I’m attempting forward movement by letting others know that I honestly can’t be arsed to dabble in romance at present. My heart is too tender and I’d be a pretty crap date.

Getting into something too soon would dishonor the positive time spent previously, and would sully the potential of a new beginning. No one needs that, no matter the attraction. I also have a great deal on my plate to square with that would be best served with me single.

May ’12, Tacoma, Washington

Here’s some advice for interaction offline and on: when and if you see me, don’t treat me any differently than you would before, bearing the previous information in mind.

You can talk to me. I may falter a smidge emotionally for a while, but I’m pretty much okay in general and am parallel with my goals for the immediate future and beyond. That’s all.

a fork in the road

To suggest you never entered my mind when I made the decision to part was ludicrous.

All I ever used to do was think about you, even when you did things that pissed me off. I think that’s part of what love is – working through the negatives to strengthen the positives.

However, when the wave of negativity looms so that it swallows everything and everyone in its path simply because it can… well, it’s time to do some moving on.

I don’t care that I’m now part of some gargantuan boogie brigade here to oppress you. When you’ve seen what I’ve seen in a concentrated year of one’s own personal hell, you value what you know to be true above all else, even if someone you love is hurting and looking for reasons or justifications to lash out. It saves you from some unsavory things.


August ’11, Vancouver, BC

Now that we’ve parted, I don’t wish you any ill will, but I feel better for this freedom. I hope that one day you can feel better too.

the awkward dance

I don’t miss you, just who you used to be

and you don’t ring true, so please stop calling me

— Robbie Williams, “She’s Madonna”

Most of the time, I would tell you that I believe in second chances. I’ve believed in them so fiercely, it can cloud my judgment. It could also be that I am hasty to hand out second chances when what I should really do is take a proper amount of time to suss out the scope of a situation before coming to a decision. I’ve had my fair share of reaching out to people when I was younger, but my experience as of late is that I’ve been more on the receiving end of things.

April ’11, Vancouver, British Columbia

It is my sincere hope that I will not be discouraged against doling out chances in the future because I’ve been burned by people more than once. It’s unfair to immediately cast new connections into the shadows of those who came before them, isn’t it? I think so.

Though I wish I could, I cannot say for certain if previous experiences will impact how I deal with interpersonal issues later; the resentment tends to manifest and grow exponentially with each case. Let’s be kind, and assume the wisdom does as well.

I like the idea of continuing to explore friendships despite a misunderstanding here, or a genuine misstep there. That’s tricky — I don’t know if it’s for the best, or if I can actually do it all alone. It helps if the folks involved are willing to admit to such things, and then move ahead.

I can’t forget how others have made me cross, feel hurt, and/or disrespected. I dare not. That would open myself up for more of the same treatment. However, I enjoy believing that I’ll do my best not to harbor petty grudges and allow negativity to rule my days. Work must be done to support this. Perhaps I can mull it over, practice forward thinking, and see where it takes me.

April ’11, Vancouver, British Columbia

I will not pretend, I will not put on a smile

I will not say I’m alright for you

— Martha Wainwright, “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole”

For the record, I do not believe in third chances. It sounds ludicrous!

If issues cannot be resolved after one lump or two, it’s likely that the connection was not meant to endure. Also, if someone is keeping track of times they’ve been wronged or upset by one person or party, that can be indicative of stress, and the beginning of a grudge. There are more productive means of using one’s energy.

water running dry

he kissed me much like that of a dying fish —
vapid, cold eyes, 
pungent body desperately flouncing about 
in the hopes 
that something significant might occur.

November 2009, Edgewater Park, Mount Vernon, Washington

spear in hand,
I deftly killed the fish
without so much as blinking. I
pierced the most tender part of him
and watched his existence fade out.