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A Work in Progress – Part Two: Is This Progress?

Trigger Warning: Abusive Relationship

Also: Spoilers for Steven Universe and RWBY

scattered paint bottles

THE GOOD NEWS

Steven Universe, RWBY, their stories, their characters, and their songs mean more to me than any other art that I have ever encountered. The songs trigger frisson in me more than Les Misérables, Hamilton, any musical, or film score I’ve heard. The stories showed me who I was and what I’ve been through. I have my life back now. My divorce is done. And I have almost cleared my home of all of the old reminders of my ex. I –

“Feel like I’m finally unbroken;

Feel like I’m back from the dead.”

-Armed and Ready (RWBY Vol. 4)

And I refuse to let toxic people take anymore of my life away.

Nevermore;
Nevermore;
Will I be afraid;
Nor will I run away.
It’s behind me;
Freedom is finally here.”

                -Nevermore (RWBY Vol. 6)

Listen when I say, I swear it here today.

I will not surrender, this life is mine!”

                -This Life Is Mine (RWBY Vol. 4)

I hope these blog posts will help someone find their way and take action even when it all seems hopeless.

“Can’t wish away the dismal days.

Can’t bring back what is gone.

Won’t waste more tears on yesteryears;

Instead, we’ll carry on!”

                -Triumph (RWBY Vol. 5)

These stories helped me move on and live while I healed.

“Let’s just live! Day by day and not be conquered by our sorrows.

The past can’t hold us down, we must break free.

Inside we’re torn apart, but time will mend our hearts.

Move onward, not there yet, so let’s just live.”

-Let’s Just Live (RWBY Vol. 4)

Helped me see that I have what I need.

“Oh, but what’s here can set you free, you don’t have to dream!

Your life’s a masterpiece, if you just believe!

Then all you see is all you need.”

-Trust Love [Open Your Eyes] (RWBY Vol. 7)

It helped me see my life story is one of consideration, patience, and resilience. And I see that I had, and have, the power to keep going.

“There’s a light that shines;

And its power is mine;

Though our body’s weak and breakable;

The spirit is indomitable.”

-Indomitable (RWBY Vol. 6)

THE PAINFUL TRUTH

“And that all sounds great. For me. But what about you?”

Are you right at the beginning of a struggle? On the precipice of one? In the middle of a storm? At rock bottom?

“You have all you need. You can do it. Just keep going and you’ll make it.” – These are good messages. Maybe they are even true for everyone on earth. But having been there, when it all feels hopeless, I know that this message cannot easily get through the fog of pessimism. I want to try to push through that fog a bit.

“Can we get back to a happy place? We’ve suffered so much pain and sorrow.

After yesterday is there any way we can trust tomorrow?”

                -Let’s Just Live (RWBY Vol. 4)

You may think that you need to be at some far off destination where your life has changed completely. You might think that you have to race there as fast as an Olympic sprinter. But you only really need to take a single step forward. It can be any size step and can be taken at any speed. And know that the steps you take may not feel like a significant change in the moment. This is all a work in progress.

My life is a long story of consideration, patience and resilience. That’s how I see it now, but it was REALLY hard to see that when my self-esteem was in the trash. And, even with hindsight, I cannot find a first step in my journey or say which step was the biggest, most important one.

That step may have been having the thought “she isn’t a safe person” about my ex-wife back in June 2018. Or maybe it was watching her more closely after she confessed about cheating on me in May 2018. That extra attention might be what led to me having my thought about safety later on. Or maybe the big step was demanding couples counseling way back in 2015 which let me learn more about relationships and psychology ahead of all that. Or anything that happened in-between all of those.

In any case, it was after I realized that my ex-wife was unsafe that I was able to realize that I didn’t deserve what she had done to me. I deserved better. I needed to protect myself from her. Those were just a few little thoughts, but they were more steps towards where I am now. I took a long time to consider myself, my life, and everything that I could. Every consideration that helped me see another part of the pattern around me, my family, and my ex-wife was another small step of progress. And most of those steps hurt along the way.

“Grief isn’t painless even if it is ‘good’ grief.”

THE UNUSUAL

So, when I say that you have all you need, I mean that you are alive and you can continue onward. You have all you need to be, to continue, to take the next small step. You don’t need to know where you’ll go or how you’ll get there. I had no idea where I would end up back in 2018. This is how life goes. And this uncertainty is something that everyone who has ever faced hardship or loss goes through.

I don’t know the answers.

Tomorrow’s still unknown.

But I can make this promise;

You won’t be alone

-Home (RWBY Vol. 4)

Your steps and your path do not need to match any ‘rule’ or ‘model’ or ‘expectation’ that you or others may have. If you get something done in an unorthodox way, then you still got something done.

By ‘normal’ standards, I still seem to be alone. My pets are my only family. My local network of friends is pretty much nothing. My IRL acquaintances are only slightly higher than nothing. But I have that other part of me, the loving side, with me when I need it. I also have my therapist. And I have the web, the Best Friends group, and other non-IRL connections. It doesn’t matter if my interactions with my other side are strange, I’m still getting in touch with myself. It doesn’t matter if I meet and interact with people in non-standard, non-IRL ways, because I am still meeting and interacting with people. My path to self-understanding went through a cartoon and an anime web series. But, as strange or normal as that is, I still found a better understanding of myself and my life’s story. I still managed to keep moving forward. And I still am.

If you read this, then you just took a step onward. You looked for help, for advice, for validation.

“You are already trying.”

Remember that. And remember that no step is too small to count even if they are too small to notice as you take them.

Zachary Ainsley

A few words about me

Zachary Ainsley has been diagnosed with Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder. They use They/Them/Their or Ne/Nem/Nir pronouns.