Violent Delights

“These violent delights have violent ends. And in their triumph die, like fire and powder. Which, as they kiss, consume.” – Romeo and Juliet

In the past week, I have heard the above quote by Shakespeare about 10 times. It’s from a scene called ‘No Fear’ in the play Romeo and Juliet. I’m sure there’s a whole mess of information on the internet and in a myriad of text books that analyse the quote, and since I’ve got a degree in English, I could probably spend some time unearthing the variety of meanings that lay coiled within those lines. Right now, however, I’m uninterested in the academic meaning. Right now, those lines speak to me because they mirror the acute fear I’m experiencing. They betray the distress I feel – this sinking feeling that I am going to be consumed.

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I’m afraid of my violent delights. I’m afraid they’ll mean the end of me. I’m scared that I’m made up of fire and powder. The imagery is beautiful, isn’t it? You can almost see the tongues of fire and powder, almost feel their kiss. We know that things that drive us to insanity always kill us – fire and powder cannot exist together. Things that start in violence, end in death. An exquisite, entrancing dance of power, but one that always kills you in the end.

Every year I make the same promises. My dreams have been the same since I was young – I have always wanted the same things. To love, and be loved. To excel. To be beautiful. To be kind, graceful and elegant. To keep my promises. To write. To create, and to destroy. To be better. Earlier this week, I heard a theory that everyone wants the same thing from their life: change. It is certainly true of me – I am never satisfied with what I have. I constantly seek more, desire more, am consumed by this hunt to attain more. I am not content. I’ve never liked that word – it has somehow always been synonymous with settling, being happy with ‘average’. I don’t want average. I want to scale the mountain and reach the pinnacle. I want evolution, revolution – a perpetual chase to change what is.

This would be fine, if I weren’t inevitably consumed by my failures. I’m too lazy to climb the mountain. I’m too busy eating doughnuts to incite a revolution. My convictions collapse when confronted with the easy option. All paths lead me back to convenigiphyence. I make no progress, instead I regress. This, too, would be fine, if I weren’t so fucking driven by my violent delights. And thus I remain, constantly consumed. Fire and powder. Desire and death.

It’s a fantastic conundrum. My head is full of dreams and my heart is full of failure. The inevitability, the unavoidable eventual disappointment – this is what dreams are made of. My bones strain under the knowledge that every move I make will end with life’s Checkmate. It bleeds me dry, but no matter how often I restart the game, it remains rigged. It wins, and it’ll win again.

Is it any wonder, then, that I don’t dream anymore? Would you?

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F YOU, ANXIETY.

Recently, I’ve been feeling anxious. I read somewhere that you should never use the word ‘very’ when writing: I’m very tired should actually be I’m exhausted. Using ‘very’, the theory goes, is lazy. The best way to put it, I suppose, is to say that I’m very… ah, fuck it. I feel like shit.

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The philosopher in me wants to know why: Why am I this irritable? Why am I angry, sad, and exhausted? Why can’t I produce a cohesive answer to these questions? I’m not supposed to feel this way – I have so many things going for me. I’ve got an incredible job, a wonderful boyfriend and an adorable kitten. I’ve lost weight [not that I am fat – I’m just trying to get back to a place where I feel happy within myself] and I caught a pretty legit Pokémon the other day. There’s not much to feel bleak about and yet I can’t help but be anxious. It seems to have become an integral part of my personality. I’m worried. I am dissatisfied with myself.

I feel as though I am perpetually falling just short of what I want to achieve. I have done a full 360° this year and somehow I’m so caught up in what I haven’t accomplished that I’m almost unable to see what I have. Every sentence I utter seems to come with a ‘but’ or a ‘however’ or an ‘although’ attached to it.

  • I’ve carved out a career as a teacher… but I’m afraid that my lessons are boring.
  • I’ve read more books this year than I did last year… although I’m not nearly close to where I want to be.
  • I’ve lost 2 kg in spite of many medical battles… however I’m going to the gym much less often than before.

There is no amount of progress that I’m happy with. In short, I’m being a miserable cow.

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Have you ever been absolutely aware that you’re not only making life tough for yourself, but also for others? Ignorance, I’ve decided, truly is bliss. I loathe my inability to stop being unpleasant and challenging. I dislike knowing how unmanageable I am. I hate snapping for no good reason, being a burden on others and feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere. Significantly, I hate that I’ve fallen so far when previously I had come so close to resolving all my issues. I thought I had this, and realising that I don’t, is utterly disappointing and disheartening.

A great deal of people have urged me to just snap out of it and I call BULLSHIT. Anxiety [and any mental health issue for that matter] isn’t something you can just snap out of; it’s not something that the power of positive thought can cure. Being incapable of “snapping” out of it is wholly frustrating for those of us who so desperately just want to get out of the cages our minds have built. God knows I’d pay good money to wake up tomorrow feeling right as a ray.

I’d pay even more to change the way the world looks at mental health: as a weakness, as something akin to leprosy. I am so exhausted of feeling like I’ve got a contagious disease that I need to hide from everyone. I’m tired of having to perk up for others. It is utterly draining to stand in line at the pharmacy for prescription medication, ducking your face because you feel as though you’re buying condoms for the first time. The shame that comes with having a broken heart [head, if you will], is awfully heavy.

The point, dear readers, is that the next time you encounter someone who is struggling with anxiety or depression, or a person who is bipolar or manic, you might consider that your “advice” that we “get over it” is entirely impractical, and more significantly, insulting. We haven’t “lost” our happiness somewhere – we can’t see it, we can’t touch it, we can’t feel it.

Think of it as a signal that your GPS isn’t picking up: regardless of how often you press the refresh button, without a signal you cannot reliably find your way home. Where there is no signal, it cannot be manufactured. All we can do is wait for that distinctly British voice to guide us home, to tell us to make a U-turn or to lay out a path where we see none.

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Until then, all we can do is pull over, hazards alight, waiting.

 

Things to Consider (When you want ‘out’)

The old adage that it is always too late when you realise that that which you had and its significance is gone, has been weighing on my mind. I’ve been confronted with a couple of scenarios in which couples are, in my opinion, being idiots.

Yes, I said it: idiots. They love each other but they complain. They can’t imagine life without one another, but they do downright detrimental shit to each other. They put on a big show and dramatize situations and issues that everyone else can see is nonsense. They destroy relationships over things that they don’t actually CARE about; they claim they want ‘out’ when that’s the last thing they actually want.

So what’s with all this shit? And can we do something about it?

SCENARIO 1: STUBBORNNESS

A timeless classic, we-both-agree-but-we’re-too-stupid-to-admit-it.

Yeah, okay, it’s not how a psychologist would put it, but I’m calling it: you’re both just too pig-headed because you’re proud, because, like principle, man.

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I’m guilty of this too often than I’d like to admit, and it’s something I’ve been trying to work on. Let’s face the facts: we all do this to some extent. Human nature dictates us to ‘compete’ with each other. Winner takes all – that is, until you realise that winning can become so costly that you lose everything. My advice? Do you love him/her? Is it an issue you can be flexible on? If you do and you can, take 20 minutes (the length of time scientists say it takes for your heart rate and body temperature to calm down when you’re upset) and consider the detrimental effects a constant stand-off can have on you and your partner. Normally, that kind of defensiveness leads to stonewalling and silence, which is damn-near impossible to recover from.  Try not to make your partner the enemy – instead, make the issue a mutual enemy.

SCENARIO 2: PETTINESS

I won’t because he doesn’t.

If you don’t say sorry first, I refuse to.

Oh, you don’t love me? Well I don’t love you, either!

If you don’t invite me over, you’ll never get an invitation from me.

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The ugly sister of stubbornness, this one can really derail a relationship. People who are petty often claim they’re acting on principle when in fact, their feelings have been hurt by some trivial matter. Arguments that break out over pettiness, don’t concern “big” issues (like marriage or children or moving to another country). Instead, they’re about the little things that people get bogged down in because they’ve lost sight of the forest. The trouble with pettiness is that partners often reach blanket conclusions that, when left unchecked, can ruin them. Often, these conclusions are founded on an assumption.

Picture this: You’re on your way home from work, and your other half sends you a text to let you know that they’re meeting friends at the local pub – will you meet him/her there? You get quite worked up because this means you have to make a detour on your way home to feed the cat. You’re upset because your partner has assumed that you’ll stop on the way home to do this, and you feel that is unfair and selfish. You respond to the text by saying that you’re not going to meet him/her at the pub because SOMEONE has to go home and feed the cat and if he/she isn’t going to make the effort to do that, you’re not going to make the effort to show up at the pub.

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This is the kind of situation that stems from pettiness (feeding the cat) and leads one to make a blanket conclusion (my partner is selfish) based on an assumption (that there is a correlation between not offering to feed the cat and selfishness). A much easier approach would be to trust your partner to be the person you fell in love with, feed the cat and leave it be. Sometimes partners are selfish, yes. We’re all human. Just because you’re selfish once (and I think in this case it’s actually laziness), doesn’t mean you’re a selfish (or lazy) human. There are many instances in which your partner isn’t just lazy or selfish – so if you can’t let it go, then at least try a softer approach to the situation: you could, for example, make a joke out of it.

SITUATION 3: FEAR

While I may have downplayed the importance of situations 1 and 2, this one is actually quite lethal. And whilst every situation in a relationship that has an element of fear to it, seems like it’s vastly different, they all come from the same place: you’re bracing yourself for a reaction. If you’re too afraid to tell your partner you love them, it’s because you don’t know how they’ll react (or you don’t know how you’ll react). If you’re too scared to confront them over the dishes that have been piling up, it’s because you’re scared of their reaction. You dread how your partner will react in a fight, during a conversation or to a surprise. Unfortunately, we all respond differently to fear: either we fight or we flee [I recently found out there’s a third option – stay – but for most people, it’s impossible to do that].

I don’t run or give up – ever. I fight.

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I stand my ground. If you push me to the floor, I get back up. People whose response is to flee, don’t know how to deal with this, so they run a bit faster, and under normal circumstances, I chase them. Recently I’ve decided to stand still and wait for people to run towards me. I can be solid; I can wait. I can take the punches. Even when I’m trembling in fear, I don’t back down from a fight. It can be a wonderful and a horrible quality. Sometimes, it makes people run faster. Other times, they like knowing that while they run circles around me, I’ll stand and wait for them to slow down.

There’s no right answer here – no ‘standard’ approach to dealing with fear – but there are ways you shouldn’t deal with it. What it comes down to, at the end of the day, is two things: 1) What can you live with? 2) Can you stand down?

People who fight, do so because they HAVE to. It’s their (scientifically-based) reaction to a threat. People who run, do so because that’s all they know; they aren’t being purposely difficult. No one necessarily likes the actions they take when they feel under attack. We are, all of us, just trying to get by, so if you can show compassion – do so. I will always advocate that you fight for what you believe in – even if everyone is running. Equally, run towards what you believe in – even if everyone else is fighting.

That being said, though, sometimes those of us who fight have to learn to lay our weapons down because not everything you desire, can be attained by waving around a gun. And sometimes, those of us who run have to slow down because if you’re always running, you’ll always be alone; if you want to be held, you need to stand still long enough for someone to wrap their arms around you.

If you want ‘out’ – and I’m not saying you shouldn’t get out – you might want to take a moment to consider whether it’s a tree or a forest that’s on fire. We can plant new trees; we can fix a defective watering system; we can take care to spray poison on insects. Once you’ve set fire to a forest, though, there’s little anyone can do but stand and watch it burn.

Humiliation in Love: Part IV – The Light

Here’s what I know:

If you want a wound to heal, you have to stop touching it.

It doesn’t sound particularly profound, but it’s something I repeat to myself as often as I need to be reminded of that simple fact. Some days, I need no reminding – perfect days, where everything makes sense, and I feel like myself, and what I have is enough. Those are my favorite days – the ones where it feels like there was no me, in the before. Other days, days that seem to stretch on endlessly, I need a frequent reminder. Those are the days where I wake up between 4 and 5 AM because I used to have a 4.45 cuddle alarm. It’s funny, how the body remembers even if we don’t.

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On days like those, I feel as though my DNA has been altered; I feel widowed. I can feel the lack of weight where there used to be a ring on my hand. My house throbs with all the things it isn’t, all the things it used to be. People tell me that this is how I should know that it MATTERED, as though that’ll make the wound bleed any less. God knows, I’ve been through this enough times that I should have it down – a blueprint of heartache, and the knowledge of how to avoid all its torturous twists and turns. But this, this is different. Somehow, the promise that I – we – made, has turned known territory into a battlefield.

This is why I repeat the words at 4 AM, so that I don’t lay a single finger upon that ache, so that I take care not to split it open.

The reminders make it harder, but there are so many things I’ve forgotten. I can’t picture his face anymore; I don’t remember what his voice sounds like, or the routine of coming home to find him on the porch drinking a beer. With every passing day, I lose more of him, and find more of me. I took me some time to be okay with that. I didn’t want to forget as that would mean that I’d forgiven. I wanted to hold on to the bitter hurt for as long as I could because it fueled the fire within me, gave voice to that little part that said that I had every right to hate him; that I’m blameless.

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I was angry with myself for investing my light when I knew that it was a gamble. From the very beginning, I was plagued with the fear that he, too, would leave.

And then he did.

He left and I stood over the graves of everything I had grown to love and everything that I assumed would be mine forever. I buried those dreams, I said goodbye to the names of our fictitious children and I stood at the gravestone of our planned joint Heroin overdose we promised we’d take when we became too old to know our own names. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I don’t fucking want to do it again – ever. But I did it. I said goodbye, I forgave and then I found myself standing on the shore, looking into the distance. Somewhere on the horizon, everything is made of light.

All I have to do, is arrive.

Humiliation in Love: Part III – Pompeii

There’s not much in the world that scares me, not in the normal sense of phobias. Of course, I could rattle off a list of my worst fears, but I’m more afraid that what has come to pass, will pass again. A drive-by hit and run of sorts, my past sitting in the backseat, lighting up a cigarette. Casual.

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People keep telling me that it can only get better, but bless them, they are wrong. Admittedly, it’s never been quite this bad, but it can always get worse. If self-fulfilling prophesies are to be believed, it’s going to continue in this fashion, and I’ll no longer be able to chalk it up to bad luck – it will be a simple case of unconsciously going down the same beaten track, ad infinitum.

It’s a chilling thought, that I’ve lost all control.

It is really possible that, for all of my hard work to make the right decisions, to face the right way, to love less the fall from grace and adore more the dignified goodness – that this isn’t what matters, and that everything depends upon… what? – my fear of history repeating itself? It’s a preposterous idea, and one which makes me want to run for the door. If that’s what it is going to come down to, where does one draw the line? How many is enough?

There’s been a lot of hurt over the past two years. Not that the 7 years preceding these were easy, but I take it a lot more personally now. It’s not that I believe that they lied to me when they said they wouldn’t leave – rather, I believe that the truth is circumstantial. True in this moment, no guarantee in the next. The only person who seems to keep promises, is me. It always comes back to this, my worst flaw: I believe the best of people. I will go to the ends of the earth for them. I am willing to fling myself off a cliff before I fail someone I love.

It will be Pompeii before I give up.

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This begs the question: if no one can be trusted to keep their promises, how do you prevent yourself from automatically embellishing armor? How do you keep the faith? Should you even try?

Humiliation in Love: Part II – The Cat

I’ve gotten some real pitiful looks as of late: people feel sorry for me. They talk among themselves, and when they go home, they’re thankful as fuck that they aren’t me. Being me has, very frequently, been an embarrassing experience. Sometimes I’m the punchline to a bad joke, but more often than not, the story I’m telling is so miserable that people do one of two things: they either become teary-eyed and fervently assure me that I am loved, or they try to mask the brief look of pity that flits across their faces, offering me what they assume is a consoling “he’s a fucking idiot” before clasping their other half’s hand in absolute fear. They know, you see, that this could happen to them. They could be me.

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Credit: Hyperbole and a Half (http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html)

It’s been humbling, to say the least. Humiliating, heart breaking, confusing and yes, humbling. Take-me-to-my-knees-let-me-kiss-the-dirt humbling. When you have a fairy tale story and it all goes to shit, it’s a special kind of humbling because no one can comprehend what happened. They don’t understand – everything looked so perfect. You looked so happy.

And you were.

That’s the really shitty part: it wasn’t a lie (not to you, anyway). So you have to tell them that you didn’t expect it, that you had no say because it wasn’t you who chose it, that you fought for it (read: begged), but ultimately it was to no avail. You could not save it.

Cue the look of pity or tears.

You remember the last words he said to you, recalling the notion that he felt caged, and it has the ability to make you smaller. Just a little, just enough to make you doubt everything, because you thought you were great. You thought you were loving, kind. You thought you were a catch.

You think that that is the worst thing that someone you (in that moment, at least – what happens after is still a blur) love can say to you, but then word gets out that he misses the cat more than he does you, who he asked to be his wife.

The cat.

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Like I said: humiliating. If you need me, I’m at the bar.

 

Humiliation in Love: Part I – The Gun.

Okay, okay. Here we are again, and I’m sure you want the story. The whole, sordid affair, laid bare. I get it – I’d be curious, too. But let’s not do that. Let’s not discuss the what and the why. We’ll just skip to the next part – and it’s my favourite – the what the fuck do we do now?

Normally, I would look at this and think that the world is ending. I can be a bit dramatic, at times. It’s shitty, make no mistake. It sucks and it will continue to do so. But what if – and I may very well be wrong, and I always seem to be – this isn’t the worst thing in the world? What if, and now I’m really stretching, it’s the best thing? I’m a pessimist, a realist and a philosopher to boot. My glass isn’t half empty: it never existed to begin with. I don’t believe in happy endings. Everything I’ve ever written, has ended with moroseness. I dislike smiley emoticons; I think rainbows are boring; glitter is the Abba of the stationary arts; and those women in the bridal magazines, the ones with the big, doe eyes and the even bigger bouquets? They’re bloody morons.

This is why it’s a challenge, to accept that this past year, I let the light in. I embraced the ponies and the fairy tales. Hell, I even thought I could make it through the day without a nice, stiff drink to dull all the pandemonium that normally courses through my brain at any given moment. You see, I didn’t think I needed it. Not the drunk nights, or the random hook-ups, or the high heels. I was done with all of that – I had it, that thing everyone is always looking for. It was mine. Done, dusted, doe-eyed. Ringed. Oh, was I mistaken.

So we move on. You ask him to leave. You rearrange your house, so it feels like it’s yours. You go out more, you start drinking again. You take a trip, so you can see what you’ve lost and what you could gain. You listen to the universe when it tells you to go left instead of right. And my god, do you see gorgeous things. You fall in love with everyone you’ve ever known, all the places you’ve ever been. You discover that you don’t have to wear heels to be happy, and that you don’t need a ring to feel secure, and that it is okay to be exactly who you are, in this moment, in this place, with this heart. Even if it’s broken. Even if it’s – everything’s – a disjointed mess. Messy can be fun, hell – it can even be great. We can work with messy. We could even love messy, because this (not that ring or that life or those whispers) is real.

Somehow, it’s right where you’re meant to be. I want everything to work out, because at heart, I remain a hopeless romantic. Who doesn’t love a good story? It’s odd, however, that I don’t feel as disheartened as I’d normally feel. Either I’ve accepted the complete mistrust I’ve come to expect from humans as the norm, or I’m in denial so deep it’s actually started to look like reality. It’s hard to tell, when you’re this close to it, exactly where you’re at. Is the worst over, or is it about to roll over you? As with all things of this nature, I will only know in years to come. I don’t know much right now, but that, in its own way, is alright. It’s honest, at least. We live under the misconception that to not have all the answers now, right this second, is to be completely at sea; is to be hopelessly lost. What utter bullshit.

As a trained philosopher, I’m more than perturbed that, for a while there, I lost sight of all the things that I believe in. Happily ever after? What nonsense. It’s work, endlessly grafting. A grind. Easy solutions? All I know, is how to fall down. The battle never ends. People love to say that no one ever changes, when that’s literally the only constant thing in life. We evolve, we regress, we grow, whether it be together or in solitude, winding around yourself like a gnarled tree. However you do it – it’s okay. The only wrong answer, is to refuse to adapt. Holding a gun to another’s temple without giving them the courtesy of weighing in on their execution – that’s the coward’s way out.
If you, whatever the circumstances, are considering doing the same to another human, I urge you to consider what it means to turn a two-way street into one. You’re not being kind, or brave, or logical. You’re being selfish.

 The next time you shoot someone, the least you can do, is offer them the gun.