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.

 

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I’m Still Here

CW: Suicide.

I called the CAT team tonight. There are a couple of reasons why I did that. Firstly, because I really, really wanted to die. Secondly, because I wanted to die but I didn’t want to disrespect the people whose house I’m staying in by ending my life in their home. Thirdly, because I made a promise to my friends that I would reach out if things got bad. Fourthly, because I didn’t want to burden my friends with another night of me sobbing on the couch.

I’m on a ridiculous amount of anti-depressants, and they’re probably going to go up in dose this week. I see my therapist regularly. I have wonderful, supportive, amazing friends who love me and tell me so all the time. I have a talent – many talents, actually – that I’m proud of and work on constantly. I have moments of awesomeness. I have moments of being babin’. I’m fairly intelligent, I’m quite funny, I’m fun to be around. But I consistently seem to fall in love with people who don’t believe I’m worth fighting for. And right now, I’m very, very alone.

I’ve never really had a problem with being alone. But now, it looms. It’s crushing. My family, whom I adore, are away from me in other countries and on other plains. There is nothing more lonely than being surrounded by incredible people, but only wanting the company of one. And when that one proclaims that they no longer have love for you, that in essence, you’re not worth the fight, suddenly the world seems very large and expansive and empty.

It’s an odd feeling to know that I’m worthy and deserving of love and happiness and all that entails, but feeling so lost and hollow that that knowledge seems meaningless. I, once so independent and fearsome in my knowledge of my place in the world, am now directionless. Without a home, without my beloved cats who are not doing well without me, without my family, I’ve been very, veeeery slowly hauling myself up a very steep hill, all the while impatient to be settled again, to be over and done with her, to be happily single, living the life of my dreams. Unfortunately, the realisation of that dream seems to be moving further and further away, like when you try to run down a hallway in a nightmare but it keeps stretching on away from you.

I don’t feel like this because my marriage ended. That hurts, yes, but it’s not the reason I am teetering at the edge of the pit. I feel like this because I never saw it coming. I trust my intuition keenly, it’s never steered me wrong. But this time it gave me no warning. I had relaxed – maybe a little too much, but I finally felt safe.

And then I wasn’t.

I feel like this because it all seems so cruel. I didn’t deserve any of what has happened to me. I’m not blaming anyone, because I’m tired of that pointless circular game. I’m usually the type of person who will cry and wail when I’m hurt, but then I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off, acknowledge the part I had to play in why things fucked up, and with that acknowledgement, things seem to move on naturally. Awesome things happen, and suddenly I find myself not grieving anymore. This time, though, it’s different, and I’m struggling. I’ve acknowledged and acknowledged and acknowledged, but I still feel so very lost.

I was doing fine. I actually was doing really fine, and then something happened and I rolled back down the steep hill, bumping and grazing myself along the way. I didn’t fall down as far as I was when I started, but it’s a significant drop. I don’t have the energy to start heaving my way back up that bloody stupid hill, but I can’t stay here. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know where I’m going. I’m relying on other people so much that I feel like I might forget my own autonomy. I don’t trust anyone. I still have a lot of love, but my wall is getting higher and thicker and I feel myself hardening and cracking like cheap paint in the sun. This feels bad. It feels so bad, and nothing I’m doing seems to be helping, and I’m really, really scared.

I had made peace with suicidal ideation just before everything fell apart, and then it’s like the Universe went “okay then, let’s test that theory.” Fucking Universe and its experiencing itself through me in a way that’s not starry and delightfully magickal. Fuck it.

Do I really want to die? Obviously not completely, otherwise I wouldn’t be here to write this. But the desire to be with my mum, to be away from this endless darkness, to be free from this sticky, sickening pain is so great that sometimes I have to call the CAT team. And that sucks.

I’m sharing this because writing about it whilst in the thick of it helps, and also because a friend of mine once told me that she had spent an afternoon reading every single post on my blog and it helped her to feel less alone. I know I’m not the only one out there in the pit.

We’re okay. We’re still here.

Just Say Yes

 


Yes folks, it’s that time again! It’s that time to pull out my dusty old copy of the Gay Agenda, turn to page 246 of sub-section 39b (the Bi Agenda) and wax rhetoric about marriage equality! Yay, that old chestnut.

Australia, while a wonderful country in many ways, is a little bit backward. Besides the rampant racism and xenophobia, the alarming domestic violence rate, and the existence of XXXX beer, Australia is the land of the seemingly homophobic government. Tim Minchin puts it best in his latest online offering, so I won’t go into why it’s ridiculous that marriage equality isn’t legal. But let me just explore our options here.

In 2004 John Howard’s Liberal government introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill, changing the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 to state, “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia” (source). What that means is that the government pretty much sanctioned discrimination based on sexual preference and it was done without consulting the Australian people.

In 2013, however, the High Court found that the Constitutional standpoint of marriage included same sex couples and that basically the federal Parliament has the power to decide to whether same sex couples have the right to marry. Instead, good ol’ Malcolm Turnbull has decided that we should have a plebiscite, even though his government can pass the law if they choose to.

What’s a plebiscite? Well, time to get my nerd on. A plebiscite (ˈplɛbɪsʌɪt,ˈplɛbɪsɪt/) derives from the mid 16th century: from French plébiscite, from Latin plebiscitum, from plebspleb- ‘the common people’ + scitum ‘decree’ (from sciscere ‘vote for’). The sense ‘direct vote of the whole electorate’ dates from the mid 19th century (source, Google dictionary). The word is a noun and its definition is:

  1. the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.
  2. a colossal waste of time and $122 million (second definition is the author’s).

Why is it a waste of time? I’ll let australianmarriageequality.org take this one: “… a free vote costs nothing. A plebiscite will become a platform for hatred and division. We elect politicians to make laws, not handball them back to voters. Issues that raise religious and moral concerns are almost always resolved by free votes in parliament, not plebiscites. A plebiscite is not binding so the issue will have to return to Parliament anyway, at which point there should be a free vote. There is more community support for a free vote than for a plebiscite, especially when voters are aware of the cost of a plebiscite.”

Kinda a no-brainer, huh?

Of course, the majority of the LGBTIQ+ community has rallied around the issue, stating that all love is equal, that it’s a human rights issue, and most importantly, that there are other far more pressing issues to put that time and money towards. We are the last developed English-speaking country in the world to legalise it. It’s embarrassing.

But there’s another facet to this issue, a less buoyant, positive, fluffy facet. Yes, love is love. Yes, we should have the right to marry whichever consenting adult we like and be happy. Yes, marriage is not about gender. But on the other side of that truly beautiful coin is the sobering reminder that things can turn shit. Marriages end, dreams die, break ups are horrible and can be really messy, and the unfortunate thing is that in Australia, there’s not a whole lot of legal support for same sex divorce. Our marriages aren’t even recognised for one thing, so it’s stay married forever, or go back to the country you got married in and become domiciled, and then apply for a costly divorce. Break ups are disruptive enough, but the added insult of not actually being able to legally divorce the person one legally married in another country means that closure is deferred, the connection to one’s ex is still active, and salt is rubbed in the open, suppurating wound.

As it stands, my marriage was not taken seriously by some members of the communities I am a part of (much in the same way that my sexuality isn’t taken seriously, but that’s a different post). Therefore, by extension, my divorce is not taken seriously, and that adds to the devastation. My need to cut ties, move on, perhaps even marry someone else is thwarted by this myopic view of a relationship that was very real (if I want to marry a man in the future, I can’t, as I will be committing bigamy in every country in which same sex marriage is recognised). It’s a cruelty on top of an already hurtful situation.

Divorce rituals are important for healing. Many cultures and religions around the world have rituals that are designed to break the bond and ease the suffering of both parties involved. People throw divorce parties. A temple in Japan allows visitors to literally flush their failing relationship down the toilet. I could do all the rituals in all the world, but still, the country I live in doesn’t give me or my ex the option to make it legal. And that’s shit.

I hope that this plebiscite will not go ahead, because there are many, many people that I love (including myself) who will be affected by the inevitably hateful ‘No’ campaign. The anti-marriage equality lobbies that we have in Australia are champing at the bit to unleash their homophobic vitriol upon my community, and this plebiscite will give them leave to do so with relish.

However, I fear that it will go ahead, so I’m throwing everything I have into campaigning for an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote – even if it isn’t binding, even if the government continue to be a pack of cowards, even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate legalising of same sex marriage, I will still vote yes. I hope all my Australian readers will do so too (mind you, if you’re a regular reader of this blog and you don’t vote yes, my mind boggles as to what you’re doing here).

Once upon a time, I campaigned and protested to have my love recognised. Now I’m campaigning to have the end of it recognised. Equality is equality.

Born to Love, Cursed to Feel

I can be on my own. I’m actually quite good at it. I enjoy my own company. I think I’m funny, smart and a good conversationalist. I could talk to myself for hours. I can be silent by myself for longer. I function better, actually, on my own. I have more money, I eat better, my career thrives, I’m thinner. I’m better on my own.

I never expected forever; I wasn’t brought up in a family of forever, but I must admit I got used to the idea of it. I felt like I could relax. I had no fear of making future plans.

I’ve been in love before.  I have loved keenly and powerfully, but with you, I don’t know, it was different. I can’t even say why it was different. I mean, I can give you reasons, like my eye was never turned (except once by an old high school friend who lives in New Zealand so there was no chance of anything coming of it and I wouldn’t have done anything anyway because I was so ridiculously in love with you). Like I could be myself around you, my full mentally unwell, ageing, thickening, witchy, farting and burping self. Like my family loves you. Adores you even. Like I could be wrong and you still thought I was cool. Like, I married you.

And then you lied to me. You did something that hurt me and you lied about it. I was angry and betrayed and I did what I knew I was allowed to do and I felt that anger and betrayal and I didn’t let you slide away from it softly. But I was prepared to forgive because I have been forgiven. I was prepared to love you anyway because I have been loved anyway and to be honest, I couldn’t help but love you. I always knew that I would with you.

It was hard, don’t get me wrong. Everything you did triggered (I hate that word) what had happened with my ex, and all that distrust, that black, sticky doubt came creeping back in, but I wouldn’t let it infect me like it did back then. It was a struggle, but I was determined. Sometimes it overtook my thoughts and strangled them because my BPD doesn’t let go easily, but I was working through it and trying to find ways around it. Understanding myself and my own hand in it. Understanding you and where this behaviour comes from. I understood. It didn’t take the pain away, but it would have eventually. If you had just held on.

But it was too hard. Facing up to not being perfect, owning that sometimes you’re an asshole – just like every single member of the human race is sometimes an asshole – was too hard for you. The fighting that is inevitable after a bond has been tested was too hard for you. The work that had to be done was too overwhelming because you believed you couldn’t do it. You believed you weren’t worth it. So you left. And again, I understand. But my God, it cuts deep into the depths of my soul, a place that I have kept wrapped up and hidden away from the world. The path to that place was something I allowed only a very few of you to discover. A wiser person would grow vines around that path, obscuring it, allowing no one to ever again stumble upon it. But it appears I’m not wise, because I would let you find it once more. You left your mark there. It wants you back.

I was put on this earth to love. I am a nurturer, a guide, a gardener. I am a welcomer and a helper. A healer. But I forget that I need those things too, and I am cursed to feel all my experiences and all of yours and yours and yours and yours and I am left empty and broken but I still feel. I cannot stop feeling.

I am not perfection in any way other than my imperfection. I am a child, stumbling around in the dark, pretending I know the way, faking it until I make it. Life taught me that I must be prepared to make mistakes in order to grow, so I have made them gleefully at times, ready for the wisdom that comes with it. I am a hermit, I am insular, I block people out because I feel too much, I isolate myself because the voices in my head are too much company. I’m a terrible friend one minute and the best person to be around the next. I am selfish and selfless, I am strong and fragile. I am beauty incarnate and the hag of your nightmares. I am the queen of the Universe and the muck on your shoe.

This is who I am. And I will walk this trail again and again until the day I die. I’d just prefer to walk it with you.

Love Isn’t Enough

Trigger warning: contains references to drug use, violence, abuse and rape.

I remember the first time it happened. We were in St Kilda East, opposite the cemetery. Stupid idea for two energetically sensitive people to live opposite a massive cemetery, but there you go. We were breaking up for the second time. I had confronted her about her return to drug use, and by confront I mean scream “fucking junkie” in her face. She punched me in the mouth, held me down on the bed and raised her fist to punch me again. She called me a dumb fuck, ugly bitch. I muttered for her to get out of my house. She did. I cried. I went in to work at the parlour the next night, my lip swollen and a blood blister forming. The girls took care of me, but all I wanted was her.

I begged her to come back. She did eight months later. By this time I had spent a few months living in a factory cultivating an amphetamine habit that I didn’t have to pay for, I had worked in Sydney for the first time and been anally raped by a client whilst there, and had been homeless for a while, bouncing from couch to couch. I had finally found a little flat to call home in St Kilda, and she came back. And then she left. And then she came back. Even when she was with someone else, she came back. This was to be the final two years of our relationship, this push me/pull you bullshit.

The second time it happened was at the flat. I had found needles and poorly written love notes from another woman. I confronted her again, this time adding “whore” to the well-versed “fucking junkie” routine. I slapped her because she called me stupid. She doesn’t remember this, but I do because she fractured my nose in retaliation. She slept in my bed that night, while I lay on the couch, sobbing. She was gone in the morning.

I punched the wall next to her head once because she stole my entire $700 pay packet to score some heroin. Then I took her to a Buddhist temple to be cleansed. She thought I was taking her somewhere to kill her. I guess she didn’t know how much I loved her, that regardless of how many fantasies I had of beating her up and throwing her off the balcony, I could never harm her. Love does that.

The last time was the last time anyone ever laid a hand on me again. I forget now what the argument was about. Probably drugs, again. I goaded her, that I remember. I pushed her hard with my words until she snapped. She held a knife to my throat and tried to smash my head through the kitchen window. Fuck, she was strong. I have strength, yes, but she was propelled by something more forceful. I couldn’t push her away. She suddenly let me go, grabbed her things, and stumbled out the door. I didn’t see her again for years.

I grieved for her for a long time. I thought she was The One for me because I felt so strongly for her. I didn’t realise until years later that the physical stuff was not the only abuse we heaped on each other. She lied to me constantly, about stuff that she didn’t even have to lie about. I called her names to hurt her because I couldn’t touch her. She stole money and jewellery from me. I read her private phone messages. She took drugs and worked at the parlour one New Year’s Eve instead of spending it with me, so I cheated on her with another woman – I was free to sleep with whatever man I wanted to, but I broke our one rule in spite. She shot up anything she could get her hands on. I cut myself. She’d proposition men for drugs. I laid on my back for her habit. We played stupid games with each other, her using, me enabling until we burnt ourselves out. We were like a supernova that imploded into a black hole.

The funny thing is, we loved each other fiercely. That’s probably why we lasted for five years all up. She still says that I was the perfect girlfriend. I beg to differ, but I loved her, there was no doubt about that. Sometimes, though, love isn’t enough. We were bad for each other. She lost herself in drugs and I lost myself in her. While we were together, terrible things happened to us and we weren’t in the frame of mind to get help. Our network was sex workers, brothel managers and drug addicts – people who had their own stories and horrors to contend with. We removed ourselves from our respective families because toxic relationships tend to make their inhabitants do that. Oh, there was love. In retrospect though, looking back years later, it is so clear that it wasn’t enough.

Ten years later, we’ve reconnected and we’re friends. Good friends. Some people raise their eyebrows at this. I guess I wanted her friendship because I refused to be the victim and I refused to make her the perpetrator. I’ve told very few people the particulars of this story because I still refuse to be the victim in this. I spent a lot of my life victimising myself because of the things that happened to me at the hands of others. I needed to, and identifying as a victim of abuse is very important for the healing process to begin. But by the time she and I were finished I was done with it, I was done with being the person bad things happened to. Therefore, I think, I was able to forgive. She and I have talked and talked and cried and talked about that time. She has apologised again and again, still does, to such an extent where I have to tell her to stop because she doesn’t need to anymore. I can see by simply spending time with her that she’s a completely different person now, as am I. I said my sorries to her too, as one thing this relationship taught me is that things are rarely one-sided.

I’ve suffered abuse. At the hands of my mother, at the hands of a child molester, at the hands of a few rapists, and at the hands of a lover. It does not define me, but I know more of this subject than I care to. No one can tell me otherwise.

If you know more of abuse than you’d care to, please get help. Talk to someone. Recovery is not about being angry at the person who hurt you (although that helps for a short time), it’s about finding a way to move on with love for yourself. Talk therapy helped me immensely. Maybe it can help you too.

This post is dedicated to this year’s Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, whose strength, resilience and bravery is an inspiration to many.

CASA
Support for victims of rape and sexual assault

http://www.casa.org.au

Family Drug Support
For families and loved ones of those with addictions

http://www.fds.org.au

ASCA
For adults surviving child abuse

http://www.asca.org.au

Victim Support Australia
Help for victims of crime

http://www.victimsupport.org.au

Child Wise
Help for victims of child sexual abuse

http://www.childwise.org.au

Domestic Violence Resource Centre
A very helpful site for those experiencing domestic violence, also caters to LGBTIQ

http://www.dvrcv.org.au/support-services/national-services

1800RESPECT
https://www.1800respect.org.au

Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association
Although there is no over-reaching national association, this page has links to other organisations that offer support and help to current and ex-sex workers. (Based in NSW)

http://www.scarletalliance.org.au

Of Loss, Lying, and Love

Seven years ago, at the age of 30, I did this crazy nutso thing and went back to University to finish my degree. I was nervous as all get out as I knew that coming in to complete my third year I would be interloping on an already established network of student artists and theatre makers – most of whom would be 10 years my junior. How on earth was I going to fit in to this group of people who already had two full years of experiences and bonding and getting drunk together and all that? Could I still write essays? Did I know what ‘pathos’ meant (I reckon I still don’t know what ‘pathos’ means)? Would people want to work with me? Could I match wits with my classmates and teachers? Would I pass my degree? It was scary and intimidating, but given I had spent the previous year in a depressed, stoned and fat state of self-loathing, I needed to jump right in and swim.

Within the first week, I was pretty much accepted into the fold, probably because I have no problem making a dick of myself to get people to like me. I was also fresh blood. Within six months, I had a whole new group of friends, had come out as an ex-hooker, and had earned a reputation for being unapologetically honest, accepting and funny. The age difference meant little, the laughs were a-plenty, and new theatrical exploits were planned and executed with aplomb and alacrity.

Cut to seven years later, most of these friends are gone. I must admit that the majority of them I chose to step away from, mainly because I didn’t like who I was around them, but a few kind of forced my hand somewhat. Some of them were my closest friends that I had spent the last seven years forging deeply important connections with. Seven years of cheap hair cuts, and tea, and hugs, and listening ears, and the keeping of their secrets, the countless tarot readings, the acceptance and non-judgement, the theatre, the wine and the laughs. All gone because they believe my wife abused her ex, because that’s what my wife’s ex told EVERYONE. That and many other lies that manifested silent judgement in my friends’ eyes when they looked at me, when they looked at my wife. I want to scream at them “FUCK YOU! How dare you! Damn you for abandoning me, for not returning the faith I had in you, for believing the worst, for not talking to me because it’s ‘none of your business’, but let’s face it, you make it your business because you talk to everyone else except me about it. Fuck you and fuck the high horse you rode in on!”

*rage!*

By gods, I miss them. There’s a hole in my life created by their absence. There are comments and messages missing from my social media page, texts unreturned and unread, conversations that I can’t have with anyone else. I feel lost. Bereft. My heart hurts and I cry often, usually alone. My pride will not let me reach out to them, my fear warning me that any attempt to connect will be rejected. I don’t cope well with rejection so I don’t try. I’m pig-headed like that.

I know it’s my own fault. I walked away. I made a choice and I stuck to it, as righteous and indignant as it may have been at the time. I still believe it was the right thing to do, because I do not believe or give any credence to what my wife has been accused of. I didn’t believe it before she and I began our relationship and I still don’t. I will choose her time and again because it’s the right thing for me to do. Yet, I still grieve what I have lost.

Wikipedia defines friendship as having the following characteristics: affection, sympathy, empathy, honesty, altruism, mutual understanding and compassion, enjoyment of each other’s company, trust, and the ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings, and make mistakes without fear of judgement from the friend. For once, Wikipedia can be relied upon as being fairly accurate. That aside, I cannot deny that I do still have friends that offer me the aforementioned things, and I can requite them the same. But the connection I have with those friends differs from my Uni friends, and I can’t quite identify why. It’s a feeling I guess.

This too shall pass, as all things are ephemeral. In closing the doors to those people, I have manifested the opportunity for other avenues of connection to open. This is exciting and different, my life has changed immeasurably, I feel there are magnificent and wonderful experiences to come, and I fully believe that all has happened just as it should have happened.

it still sucks, but. And it will suck for a while. I hope they’re okay. I hope they achieve all they desire. I hope in time I will see them again and all will be fine. I hope they miss me as much as I miss them.

Love’s Labours

She burst into my life like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky. I stole that line from Christopher M. Cevasco who said that in reference to reading Tolkien for the first time, but it’s accurate. It was unplanned, unexpected and unsought. I had thought she was beautiful from the moment we met a year ago, but she was in a relationship, about to get “married” – as much as lesbians can get married in this country – and I don’t mess around in other people’s relationships. I kept my friendly distance, stayed acquaintances with her and her wife, and continued my lonely journey.

Six months after the wedding, the marriage soured. Gauntlets were thrown, mud was slung, feelings were hurt and names were besmirched. It was ugly. Ugly and painful for all involved, I’m sure, but the only people who know what truly went on in that relationship is her and her wife.

Five weeks later, I took her on a date, simply because I wanted to give her a moment of sanctity, maybe even a little bit of joy. It had been a long time since a woman had elicited such feelings in me, and it may have been a long time before I met someone who did again, so I took my chance. I saw her more often, my heart growing larger every time. We spent hours talking, kissing, laughing and enjoying our connection. I believed at first that I was a band aid, a means to mend a lacerated heart, and although the thought saddened me I accepted the possibility that this was my only role in her life. I honestly felt privileged to be that momentary salve for her soul. However, despite our best intentions, and even against our own wishes, we fell in love.

We celebrated, publicly and privately, this new discovery of love. We took photos, we shared photos, we accompanied each other to significant events simply because we just wanted to be together, experiencing each other in these moments, as people in love do. Within a month, we became official. We’re in a relationship.

And then the knives came out. Some were sharp, keen and loud; others dull, silent but no less painful. Opinions were formed by those ill-informed, unsolicited advice was delivered with the arrogance of those who have not yet learned to let others be as they are. People started telling us what to do, using mutual friends as catalysts, suggesting that we might perhaps think of others and not be so “cutesy” quite so publicly. We were accused of using social media to be spiteful, of manipulating others’ emotions for our own gain, and for proving nasty accusations against my partner as fact through our inappropriately timed relationship.

And I snapped. I ranted and raved. I lost my temper and my ability to be understanding and compassionate. What we were being charged with sounded juvenile to me. I am capable of being an arsehat, but vindictiveness is not in my nature, so being reproached for that offended me. It angered me, for one very simple reason:

I am happy. And people I barely know are sitting around talking about my relationship like it’s an episode of Game of Thrones and coming to the conclusion that my happiness is objectionable and should not be displayed in a public domain.

I have no shame in declaring that my life has been difficult. I have had many moments over the last 37 years in which I felt I was existing in some circle of Hell. I have fought, and struggled, and heaved my way out of that pit time and again. I have been sexually, emotionally and physically abused by strangers and by people who claimed to love me. I have put myself through trial after ordeal whilst stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out how to be human. I have suffered indignities, sorrow and pain, and through it all I still found the ability to breathe, to find joy where I could, to love as much as my battered heart would allow. And yet I was never really happy. I didn’t think I could be.

She came into my life at a time when I had resigned myself to a continuing reality in which I existed alone. Rather than being a depressive, self-pitying realisation, it was an understanding of who I was and where my existence was at. It wasn’t a reflection on who I am as a person, whether or not I was loveable or worthy, it was simply an acceptance that perhaps my life wasn’t about experiencing that particular kind of partnership, that it was more about my spiritual development, and my art, and my friends, and the more I searched for that elusive love that I craved so much, the more miserable I would be. The thought also occurred to me that perhaps I was simply too damaged to ever be completely vulnerable and let someone else in. So I let it go with an abeyant sense of sadness, and told myself I didn’t like who I became in a relationship anyway, so I wasn’t missing much.

Then she entered my field of vision and everything changed. We are unflinchingly honest with each other about everything: our pasts, our expectations, our faults, the things we don’t like about ourselves, the things we do, how scared we both are, how cautious we know we should be, and how quickly we fell for each other anyway. Maybe it’s a lesbian thing, I don’t know, but I can’t deny that I am in love. So utterly, overwhelmingly, scarily in love.

For the first time in any relationship I’ve had ever, I feel like myself. I am comfortable and relaxed, and I have so many moments where I am present and content. I don’t feel the need to impress her, to compete with her, to hide my crazy, or to be right all the time. I don’t feel the need to be thin to be attractive to her, and I don’t need to play the femme fatale to get her attention. She thinks I’m funny and sweet and beautiful and smart and a dork and clumsy and she loves me for all of it. At last, I think I’m having the relationship I should be having. I’m actually happy, not because she “makes” me happy, but because I like who I am around her.

It’s happened very quickly, and if I’d had my way, I would have preferred her to spend more time single. But it is as it is, and being the sort of person who takes risks for love, art and experience, I have accepted this path that the Universe has put me on. It’s hard, though. Staying vigilant amongst the well-intentioned but ultimately hurtful “advice” that has been sent our way is difficult. Doubt is always a factor in new relationships, but it usually comes from within, not from external sources. Many of her friends believe she has moved on too quickly, but what they don’t know is the hours of discussion between us and our close friends over what went wrong, the times she has wept in my arms over the end of that relationship, her sorrow at the loss of her wife who was her best friend, and her fear of fucking up her time with me. Of course no one else knows this, it’s private. I understand the concern of her friends and mine, and I begrudge no one the right to have an opinion, but I do draw the line at imposing that opinion as fact onto my experience. I would never dare tell anyone what they should and should not say, do, think or feel. It’s insulting.

Our relationship is not a “fuck you” to her ex, a woman who whilst hurting hurt others, including two of my closest friends. Our time together is about us, not about sticking it to anyone else. We share our adventures with our online world because this is the age of the internet, such is the time we live in now. The only person who has any conceivable right to be offended or disaffected by our public declarations of mutual admiration is her ex, who has blocked us both on social media (such is her privilege) and has no access to our private lives. Her name is not mentioned in any of my posts, and I try very hard to be respectful of her perspective of her relationship. But this is mine, and I will not be shushed.

Look, at the risk of sounding overly poetic, love will not be denied. It demands attention, expression and celebration. We as humans need to hear “I love you” as much as we need to say it. I love hard and I love well, and the opinions of a few is not going to stop me from rejoicing in my happiness with the many who have been waiting to see me in that state for decades. If that means I alienate some acquaintances then so be it. I personally think it’s sad that someone’s happiness can be the cause of so much disdain in others.

I love her. She is my illumination, my muse, my paramour, my biggest fan and my greatest ally. She is graceful and erudite, she is considerate and charming, she is accepting and reflective, and is one of the most brutally honest people I know. I admire her strength and her vulnerability, and I hold in high regard her ability and willingness to take responsibility for her own life, to seek help, and to own her mistakes.

She makes me laugh. She makes my heart sing. And yes, she may one day hurt me just as much as I may hurt her, but I choose to take the risk because I’m an adult and have the competence required to make my own decisions.

What makes me laugh is that none of this is actually anybody else’s business, not even remotely. The only people who know what really goes on in our relationship are her and me. The reason I share this now is because I want to. I have nothing to prove and nothing to justify to anybody. This, what you’re reading now, is about me. Little ol’ me, finally receiving the love I’ve always wanted.