While I never speak about it to anyone besides mentioning it with Amber a few times, I often search for images of Richmond and Vancouver, while another tab would have the map of the Lower Mainland opened. While I look through those photos, I imagine all of the things I could do with my wife, the places we will go to, the different cafes and restaurants we will visit, the road trips we may take, etc. Honestly, this is a dream come true.

As far back into my youth as I could remember, I often had a strong desire to visit different aspects of Metro Vancouver. When I was in my late teens to early twenties, I spent hours viewing and downloading pictures of Vancouver. I listened to music while I was viewing those pictures and it often brought me a lot of sadness.

Cycling allows me to get a glimpse of my life beyond the walls of my home. This is something I could do alone. When I was younger, in my twenties, I also spent time driving around in the wee mornings in the summer time. Mind you, I didn’t go too far. I drove around Richmond mainly and to various places around Vancouver that was memorable to me. Mainly places that I had attachments to such the house June stayed at when she went to UBC, I parked my car at that street across from that house and thought of our first kiss. I went to the Waterfront and parked my car near the Skytrain station and reminiscent on when Albert and I spent many nights walking around here and in Gastown. I often drove around the airport on Sea Island, thinking about the times my friends and I fantasized about going to Japan, visiting Europe, etc. I have spent some of my time just sitting on a bench inside the airport at night when things were quiet. I have been there with Patrick, at times, alone.

Sometimes, I felt like I was waiting.

Looking back in my life, I have flown on a plane 30 times. The last time I was on a plane, I flew to Calgary and back with Uncle Dick to see Jason. The act of taking off always puts me into a feeling of nostalgia. It reminds me of the very vivid dreams I have had since my childhood. Dreams that took me places, that I could see and feel every detail of. So being on a plane and taking off is almost like a vivid dream state. It’s unreal for ‘someone like me’ to have the experience to fly away. Someone like me who has internal nervous break downs, major anxiety attacks and mental obstructions that make leaving my home nearly unbearable. I hold it together by focusing my entire mind on the fact I have someone to rely on. This isn’t something I openly tell people. Driving isn’t as bad, but I do avoid places with high traffic or if I consider it a place with complicated road work and driving conditions. With that said, you can probably get an idea of why I spend more time looking at photos online of my own home cities than to actually go out there and experience them on my own.

When Patrick still lived here, I took advantage of the fact he was willing to be ‘the driver’ and he knew he could rely on me to set things up and organize things if an event needed it. I knew that he was a young bird trying to take off. So it was inevitable that I would not be able to rely on him for the rest of my life.

I told a story like this to Benny about Patrick and he remarked, “He’s really a great friend.” Which I responded, “I wasn’t a good friend to my friends. While I did spend a lot of time listening to people rant and vent, I also wasn’t very considerate of the how and why they got into their situations. I was a harsh critic or at least, I became that way.”

Take my trip to the Caribbean. It was Jon’s wedding. I disappointed two friends. Number one, I didn’t behave like Jon’s best man. Number two, I didn’t consider Patrick’s feelings. For Jon, even to this day, I often ask myself, “Why didn’t I shed away my shyness and social awkwardness and be the best for one of my best buds?” For Patrick, I often think to myself, “Why couldn’t I have just sat there and listened to his silence and enjoy his company without breathing down his neck the same way his dad did?”

So I carry with me, a lot of emotional weight.

Which brings me to another point. Amber is relentless in the factor that no matter how much of an asshole, no matter how demanding I was, no matter the bullshit I sent her way, she stayed around in hopes that I will change out of it.

Sometime last year, Sarah B. had a small debate with Sam O. on one of my Facebook posts where I shared an image that basically talked about how people should keep going to work through the problems of a person, no matter the cost. Not quite, but similar to that. Mind you, I shared that on the notion that people shouldn’t take memes like that too literally and that anything you read online should be taken within context. So obviously, if your partner is an abusive asshole who loves lighting your hair on fire and beat the crap out of you with a golf club, while yelling profanities at you, then that’s a good sign to leave him/her and call the cops. Regardless of what I thought, Sarah disagreed with the post while Sam agreed to it. Both of them took the post literally. I agreed with both of their perspectives because like I said, memes like this need to be taken into context.

What I am trying to get at is that while I did not physically harm Amber, in the last five years since we became romantically involved, I have said some of the worst crap I could say to her. In doing so, my intent was to hurt her emotionally, to make her feel an equivalent pain to what I was feeling, saturated and translated from the feelings of frustration, stress and anger. However, often times, even before I say the crap I said, even during the moments I said what I said to her, somewhere deep inside my mind, I would yell at myself to stop. “Stop Leeman! Stop! Don’t say it!” Yet every single time, my anger took a hold of me and I said those hurtful things to Amber.

I know for a fact if this was anyone else, our relationship would have long been over, but at the same time, our relationship would not have gone to that point. While I won’t get into the details of our relationship and its dynamics, I can say that Amber simply does not have the same romantic experience that I or any of my past lovers has had. Even then, besides the experience, Amber just don’t have the same mentality to want to become a more proactive person to show affection. So that is where we clash often. However, my expressive emotional abuse has gone down drastically since over a year ago. It was something I managed to evolve out of very suddenly over a period of about three to five months. I noticed that my abusive anger started leaking into other areas of my life with other people. I realized it was affecting my relationship with my friends, family members and business partners. It took all that extra influence to help me realign my thoughts.

Ultimately, Amber told me that she believed the reason I was so emotionally abusive is mainly due to my depression. I told her that I cannot excuse my abusive behavior on depression alone, even if it can be justified that way because at the end of the day, I should be in control over my own attitude and behavior, no matter the reasons. While it’s true many combat veterans endure PTSD and in that mental stress, take it out physically on their family members, it cannot be excusable when knowing they have this problem, continue to be in a situation they can harm others. Note that I am not a soldier or a veteran. I was just saying that to make a point. If I was ‘man enough’, I could have left my relationship with Amber which I have tried many times, but ultimately, I could not do it and no matter the threat of breaking off our relationship, we always came back on the notion that she will evolve and mature her thoughts.

This was indeed a two way street. She cannot solely grow and mature on her own. I too had to do that. So I gradually changed my own outlook in life. Since earlier last year, my behavior and attitude changed towards everyone around me. Indeed, it still comes up every now and then, but I can see it very clearly changing. It’s really a strange feeling to be aware of the change.

That doesn’t mean Amber and I don’t have arguments. It just means I have become much more respectful and not to belittle her or resort to bashing and emotional abuse.

While Sarah’s remarks about her past partner being abusive and she was depicted as ‘the crutch’ in his life, where they eventually had to break it up for the health and sanity of both individuals, I also feel that if Amber never gave me the chance to evolve myself through my own will, as well as the influence of my friends and family members, I wouldn’t have been able to grow out of this aspect of my depression.

Amber is a very strong person and I owe my life to her. This doesn’t mean we won’t have arguments in the future. It just means evolving the way we argue, evolving the way I behave takes precedence over my possible bad attitude and behavior.

So when I look through these photos, I am reminded that I will have the opportunity to visit all of the places I once dreamed of visiting. One day, Amber and I will visit Ovaltine Cafe and take a few pictures. We will go into Van Dusen Gardens and walk around. Maybe we can do that during December. We will walk around downtown Vancouver, visit the ice rink, go to the Waterfront and show her where the German Embassy is. We would go to Stanley Park and I will show her the war memorial and tell her a little story about it, coinciding my feelings when I was a young boy. We would go to Chinatown and eat at various restaurants. During Chinese New Year, we would visit the Buddhist temple to take in the sights and sounds. I will show her so many different things around here. I will show her my childhood house. I will show her James McKinney, the school I went to from 1983 to 1986. We would try new things together. We will go to musicals and plays. We will go to the museum.

Beyond that, it honestly terrifies me. Flying back to Germany, going to Hong Kong, etc, but it will be a lot better knowing we can rely on each other for emotional and mental support, without being laughed at or ridiculed. We will take things in, as they come.

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