A New Year

It’s New Year’s Eve, 10.25am, I’m sitting on the floor of the kitchen of my best friend’s place where I’ve been sleeping on the couch for the past 4 months or so. I’m silently sobbing, my glasses pushed up onto my head because they steam up when I cry. My best friend and my brother are in the only bedroom of the flat, lost in their new found love. I’m happy for them. It makes me cry harder.

I am surrounded by beautiful, supportive, wonderful friends and family. I am loved. I am respected. I am supported. But I feel so very alone.

I’m stronger now than I have been in a while. I’ve made peace with the shitty things that have happened this year. I’ve been apologised to by the person who broke my life. I apologised to the person before me for my part in breaking her life. I’m looking better than I have in years. I have a new job, I’ve started writing music again, I’m generally calmer and I laugh a lot.

I’ve been told that I have a new love on the horizon, that 2018 will bring me great happiness and success. I’ll take the happiness and success, but I don’t want the new love. My heart is already taken. Yes, it is in the hands of someone who by all accounts doesn’t deserve it.  But that’s who I am. I made the biggest commitment I have ever made in my life to her. It was legal, it was sacred, and it created a bond that is nigh impossible to break.

And I have no shame in admitting that that makes me feel like an idiot.

It’s not a case of not being able to let go. I can and I have. I don’t expect a happy ending to all this, even though we’re both doing our best to heal. She has been humble, contrite and apologetic. She has acknowledged the bullshit she put me through. She has asked nothing of me except an ear to listen. I have not been soft on her. I have been hard and blunt and unwavering. She has taken it and is hopefully applying it to her life. I haven’t forgiven her, not yet, because at times the pain is still so great that it leaves me breathless. Things were done that cannot be undone. They cannot be fixed. That’s okay, things happened as they happened, and I have learned so much and grown so tall.

But she doesn’t love me. At least, not enough to try to mend our broken marriage, and that’s her prerogative. I, on the other hand, still love her. It makes me feel foolish and I know it’s useless, but it is what it is. True love isn’t always reciprocated. Real love isn’t flowers and rainbows. Real love connects two people by an invisible thread that never breaks, no matter how far apart they are. Authentic love understands that people fuck up and do horrible things and it accepts that truth and loves anyway. My love understands that underneath all the crap and narcissism there is still a good person who deserves compassion. My love accepted the imperfections in her perfectly.

So, I can let her go, but I will always love her. I don’t want someone new because I won’t be able to give them the fullness of my love because it belongs to someone else. That’s not fair to them, whoever they are. It will take me years to learn to live with that unbroken thread, and I would hate to have the spectre of my failed marriage to hang over anyone else’s head. At least, not now.

So, I’ll be alone. And that’s honestly okay. This whole experience has taught me that my value does not lie in others’ opinions of me. It has taught me that despite the bad things I’ve done, I do not deserve to be treated badly. It has taught me that I don’t have to give up my life for someone else, that I don’t need to constantly prove that I’m worthy of their love. The only person I have to be worthy for is me, and I can be happy with that.

Even if I am an idiot who still longs for the person who almost destroyed me.

I’ll cry when I need to. I’ll be sad and I’ll miss what might have been if we had taken the chance and healed together. I’ll feel the tug of her, of this person I know so well, who I loved at her darkest. I’ll feel that tug and it will stop my heart for a moment but then I’ll keep going.

The American author Elizabeth Gilbert once said: “People think your soulmate is your perfect fit and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soulmate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”

That’s all I wanted, really. Just that. I had it once and I’m happy I have.

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A Woman of Wonder

I miss something that doesn’t exist. A whisper, a feeling, a brush of a hand. It used to be so solid, so clear. Now it’s fuzzy and distant, this thing I miss. It’s like trying to embrace a cloud.

I took my first plane trip when I was 11. My brothers and I flew over to Australia to see my dad. As we flew I looked out the airplane window and imagined I was flying through the clouds, bouncing off each one like they were cotton balls. My mother had parachuted through a cloud back in her Navy days. She described it as passing through damp gossamer. Clouds have no substance, she told me. They’re like dreams.

On long road trips past oceans, I’d imagine the sea had frozen and I was ice skating over the waves. It gave me a feeling of freedom and power to believe that on some plane of existence I could conquer the impossible. 10 year old me could command the weather, use my ridiculously long hair as lightning, stop an oncoming train with a look. In my mind, I was unstoppable.

It should be no surprise that Wonder Woman was my first crush as a kid. I became obsessed with her at the age of 5. She encapsulates everything I want to be: strong, fast, awesome boobs, a lasso of truth, the ability to run in heels and an innate capacity to take no shit. She’s a saviour with good and honest morals and values. She’ll cut a bitch, but only if that bitch is violating the liberty of someone else. Also, she likes girls and boys, but that’s besides the point.

Being my own version of Wonder Woman is intoxicating, particularly when someone else is prepared to be Steve (or Stephanie) Trevor. Being the one who saves the day is empowering and satisfying and ego stroking and extremely dangerous. It lulls one into a false sense of invulnerability, which then makes the inevitable fall from the messiah pedestal that much more painful.

The thing about superheroes is, they don’t exist. I mean, yes, there are extraordinary people who do amazing, miraculous things, but they’re just people. No capes, no superpowers. No one can leap tall buildings in a single bound. If only. There are plenty of damsels and dudes in distress, though, that fuel the need for superheroes. But it’s false. No one can save anyone else. We can only rescue ourselves, truth be told, and I used all the skills I learned in my journey through life for the one I loved, all the while forgetting that even Batman was not always everybody’s favourite guy in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne had to eventually acknowledge that saving the day was not going to take away his trauma.

Growing up has a tendency to curb those thoughts of indestructibility, to transform them into things more attainable. There’s always been a part of my mind, however, that has believed that the improbable is still possible. The Universe has a way of making things happen along a path we least expect. Goals can be achieved, dreams can come true.

Ah, yes. Those dreams again. Paper thin and fragile. Unsubstantial and deceptive, like a cloud. Like you turned out to be. My cumulonimbus. I believed in those dreams, in those clouds of my youth. I allowed myself to be swept up in the fantasy, in the idea that me and my love could overcome anything, that the Wonder Woman inside me would stay vigilant and true. It could have, but it didn’t exist. I miss a thing that didn’t exist. I miss my Paradise Island. I miss you – not the victim you, not the damsel you, certainly not the abusive you, but the version of you that was loving and strong and generous and kind and honest. Sadly, that version you gave to me was as false as it was true. What I felt was truth. Who I felt it for wasn’t.

So, my heart breaks one last time as I reach for those flimsy, filmy illusions, wishing so hard that they were real. Wishing I could grasp them to my heart because they were so beautiful. My belief in making the impossible probable hasn’t died. I’m sure you didn’t intend for your abuse of my love to do that, any more than my saviour complex was intended to deny you your autonomy. I like to think you’re not aware of what you do to people. I guess I’ll never know.

But, it’s no one else’s concern, my awakening. It is mine. My renewal is my responsibility. For probably the first time in my life, I’m being my own superhero. I’m saving myself and although I have wise, wonderful, pull-no-punches honest friends and family to guide me, I’m doing it alone.

And it feels so good.

 

Anatomy of an Arsehat

I think we human beings have a big problem. We spend millions of dollars every year in search of this problem, it is taught to us as children by our parents, by our religion, by our politicians, and it causes more psychological and emotional grief than any of us realise. It is the pursuit of perfection. For some reason, there is an unnamed paragon of virtue that exists somewhere in the world that we are supposed to live up to at every moment of the day, every day of the year for as long as we live. Some people call this paragon Christ, which is cool, except he was a human being just like the rest of us. Others call this person Gandhi, or Mother Teresa or some other such public figure that is held up to be superhuman in their goodliness. That’s the thing. We are supposed to be “good” all of the time, and one slip into not-goodness means we are crap human beings who should be forever vilified and tarred and feathered and left out to rot and be fodder for vultures and hyenas.

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make sense. In fact, it’s a bunch of bullshit. We are not Prometheus tied to a rock. Our livers are not to be consumed on a daily basis by a Chianti-and-fava-bean-loving eagle because Zeus said so. I defy anyone to put their hand up and declare that they have never in their lives snapped at someone they love, or lied a little, or pushed in front of someone in a queue, or not let that car in that’s been waiting to pull out into traffic for 20 minutes, or any number of little not-good things. Okay, let’s raise the stakes a little. Who can say that they haven’t cheated on a partner, or treated a family member badly, or embellished a sickness for attention, or called someone names, or behaved cruelly or like a brat or like an immature douche bag? Seriously peeps, look deep inside yourselves. Every single one of us has done something – usually to someone else – that we feel bad about. If we allow ourselves to look back on that act, we feel a sick, prickly sensation behind our sternum, blood rushes to our face, we feel hot and twitchy. If you don’t feel these things, you’ve either come to terms with your humanness and therefore deserve some sort of delicious biscuit, or you’re a sociopath and don’t care. No judgement there. Good for you.

Something I hear from a lot of friends is this notion of “deserving” things. I don’t like this idea of a rewarding Universe/God/whatever, as if ticking all these boxes of good deeds will earn us the spiritual equivalent of a free toaster oven. The Universe gives us what we ask for. Period. It doesn’t care if we’re “good” or “bad” or indifferent because the Universe has no ego and neither will it get a free gift if it recruits more souls. Our behaviour is our responsibility, no one else’s. Whether we are “good” or “bad” is entirely our choice, and our accountability for that choice is what means something. As I’ve said to my partner, my friends, and anyone who cares to listen to me pontificate, I don’t actually care what you’ve done as long as you own it. And because we all have the capacity to be an arsehat for various reasons we all know the feeling of embarrassment and shame in the admitting of it. I have moments of looking back at my behaviour towards past partners and cringing at my assholery. The fact that I was very sick at the time holds no water as I still feel responsible for my actions – as I should. But bashing myself in the head because of past behaviours that I have admitted to and apologised for (when given the chance) serves no purpose except for ensuring I feel shit for longer and giving myself a headache.

Of course, there are people who actively abuse others. This is something completely different from people just being arseholes. Abuse happens more than it should and if it’s emotional abuse it’s difficult to prove. There is no excuse for abuse and those who abuse others for whatever reason, in my opinion, are people who desperately need help themselves. The definition of abuse is thus: to treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly; to speak insultingly, harshly, and unjustly to or about; revile; malign; to commit sexual assault upon. As someone who has experienced all of these things, I can tell you that abuse has the propensity to seriously affect and/or destroy lives.

However, there is a trend at the moment on some social media sites (tumblr, I’m looking at you) in which arsey behaviour from a partner, workmate or family member is being labelled as abuse, specifically a form of abuse called Gaslighting. Gaslighting is a term used for a form of emotional abuse. As a fellow blogger Alfred MacDonald states: “There are several definitions of this term, but in a nutshell it refers to the act of trying to deceive someone into a false reality by discrediting their emotions. Like most mental health terms, it describes something serious; also like most mental health terms, it is ubiquitously misused.” I’m not going to go into this too much as it’s a detailed and complex issue, but accusing someone of abuse when their behaviour is not abusive is as much of an arsehole act as anything else. Having said that, the accusation in itself is a cry for help, so like everything arsey that we do there should be a measure of understanding in how this behaviour is dealt with.

To recap: being an arsehole is not being an abuser. Being an abuser is waaaaay more serious than being an arsehole. Learning the difference between the two is advantageous for happy life-living.

Back to the issue at hand. In my little world view, if you are sorry for hurting someone, if you acknowledge your accountability in a toxic relationship, if you can raise your hand and say “yep, it was me, I fucked up”, then no one should use your behaviour as evidence that you are a horrible person. Because no one is infallible. No one really has the right to point the finger at any one else and make a judgement on their character because, let’s face it, everyone’s an arsehat at some stage of their life. Everyone. We’re supposed to be because we’re not perfect. And truthfully, as much as we’re all connected and have this shared knowledge of emotional responses, no one really knows what anyone else has experienced. We’re all equipped with different tools for dealing with these experiences, and some are better at dealing with this shit than others.

Of course, this knowledge by no means should be used as an all-access pass to the arsewipe expo. Running around being a dick on purpose and then saying “oh, I’m sorry. I’m just being human” is not cool. The point is, try not to be a dick. If you are a dick despite all your best efforts, own it, accept the consequences of it, fucking apologise, and move on. Here endeth the lesson.