He and I

He said we’d be a burning house or a great victory and I was inclined to agree with him. We were tempestuous, he and I. Our passion often burnt more wildly than our rationale ever did. But the love was there, of that we never doubted. In fact, it was he who taught me what it truly was to love. He showed me how to be fearless in the face of it. And yet, in the end, it was he who came to fear it most of all.

We dreamt of a cosy cottage, nestled in the countryside, with wild flowers blooming in every nook and cranny. We imagined our children, how we would teach them about the world. He was intent on spoiling them, I was set on installing the understanding of gratitude and value. Names and locations were another hurdle. I needed warmth, my body craved Italy and the unfamiliar. He’d set his heart on England, his great nostalgic love. It seems on some things, we could never agree. We would talk of a place in between, a made up place that encapsulated both scenes. Somewhere where there would be shade for him and sun for me.

He worried about what he would do out there, in the wilderness. Would he write books that no one would read. Would he grow restless. Would he grow bored. Of me. Of the life that we’d created. He said dreams were better kept as they are, safe inside the mind. Dreams were better dreamt.

I disagreed.

So what if we hated it. If after months of love and passion, we grew cold. We grew to feel trapped. Our romantic comedy turning into a bitter tragedy that we both wanted to turn off. If we burnt the house to the ground and tangled ourselves in divorce proceedings. Our children lost in the limbo of a great dream that came undone. If it all turned to rubble…but we chose to do it anyway.

I didn’t want to live in the safe space. Dipping toes in the shallowness of the unfulfilled potential. I hated how we’d spend all day going over the details, only to tuck it all neatly into a box at night and place it upon a shelf, so as to keep it clean. Undamaged from the possibilities that might occur if we ever actually tried. Our children forever content in their unborn state. The flowers always magnificently cascading along the garden’s parameters, untouched by winter’s hardships. And us, endlessly happy in the house we never came to inhabit outside the confines of our mind.

I wanted to rip the damn shelf off the wall. Kick open the box and dive right in. I didn’t care if it all fell apart some time from now. If one day we came to be strangers with nothing but fragmented memories between us. Because we would have done it. We would have seen it through. Felt it, really felt what it was to bring something to life. To have been truly alive and with each other, even if it was just for a time. A precious and precarious moment, shared between two people who were more afraid to see dreams be wasted left as dreams, than all of reality’s complications.

We could have been a burning house or a great victory, he and I, but in the end, we were nothing but an idea left to stagnate. Yet, in the depths of his fear, he taught me what it was to be fearless and what it was to love, when you’re afraid.

Valentine's

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Hearts don’t break evenly. They never do. You can fight hard, you can fight fair, but when it ends, the discarded pieces fall just the same. Scattered and messily. You get hurt, you get angry and you look for someone to blame. You demonise the other person, hate them for a time, but in the end, it’s yourself you hate, because you knew from the start, the very first moment of interaction, that they were who they were, weak and full of poor intention, yet you let yourself love them all the same.

And so, when the love is over and the battle of right and wrong begins to wage, you know it’s solely yourself you have to fight, for all the hurt that fell between you. You caroused into that room with eyes wide open, heard the self-deluded talk, witnessed the audacious vanity, could sense the inauthenticity that rippled like a heatwave in the middle of summer. You listened as they threw their own allies under the bus with such flagrant disregard only a narcissist could be so bold to do.

The indecision, the lack of commitment, the shallow and incredulous lack of empathy, stemming from an individual so self-absorbed it almost beggared belief. You thought it ridiculous that someone could take something as powerful and sacred as meditation and rather than use it breakdown their ego, had in fact actually used it to inflate theirs beyond measure. And worse still, was so capable in the art of story telling, they’d actually convinced others of the lies they sold so well to themselves.

You knew some had seen through the cracks though, they’d told you so themselves, but for most it seemed as though they could do no wrong. The facade was too engrained, the story ran deeper than they ever did. You saw firsthand the split personality, the showman in action. How they turned from charming to manipulative at the flick of a switch. The way they’d be loving then cold, depending on what they wanted to gain. Sometimes it was power, sometimes it was compliance. Their mean streak knew no bounds.

And when you left, you made the right decision, but your heart still clung like meat on a hook, waiting, waiting, just in case you’d been wrong. You always see the best in people and for all you knew of them, you still imagined there was some good, some hope, some opportunity to grow. But they didn’t did they. In the time that passed, they showed you further evidence to their lack of morality and care. How all their good deeds on paper were fuelled by self-centred intention underneath.

And it infuriated you didn’t it, the way in which the world just went on. How everyone believed the lies. The outside world looking upon that perfectly curated surface, with the idyllic pictures and the made up lines that read like poetry. How people ate into their hands just as they knew they would. How wise, how kind, how talented. How they abstain, their self-control is astonishing. And so you’re sure it goes on and on with the gushing words of praise which eat away at you because you know the truth.

You regret encouraging them. You regret the praise you bestowed. You rue the day you handed them the support they didn’t deserve. You wish you could take back every moment that you helped them, after they threw your kindness gracelessly to the floor, in favour of everyone else’s. You do that though, don’t you. You champion the people that you care about. Help support them in building their empires. You do it because you care, because you believe in them. Sometimes you just don’t choose your causes well.

Well, you paid the price for your freedom, but staying would have ultimately cost you more. And whilst you know that the story of your ending will have been told differently by them and their creative tongue, you know the truth and so do they. You know they didn’t really love you, because they’re not capable. Sure, they fell in love with you, with the idea of you or the possibilities that you represented, but they don’t know real love. You doubt they ever have or indeed ever will.

Because you know that real love is unconditional. It’s the acceptance of a person’s totality. The good, the bad and the so god damn ugly you wish it would just die already. You know it requires patience, with yourself and with the other person and in part, a little self-sacrifice, because when you truly love someone, it stops being just about you. Your autonomy gets left behind in favour of a higher purpose; divine union. You have to leave selfishness at the door and when you love someone, truly, you find that you want to.

Sure, you acknowledge that maybe romcoms and the like are guilty of giving people a fictitious understanding of love. The idea that when you meet the right person everything just slots neatly into place. That you’re suddenly magically happy and complete. But you know that’s bullshit, because love, real love, is the kind that often feels uncomfortable. It presses your buttons and forces you into tight spots in order to make you grow. It’s prickly and precarious and requires a finite balance, which only comes from hard work.

You know that you can still be incomplete and miserable and be loved and you sure as hell know that you can’t be defined by another person’s affection for you. But that doesn’t stop you wanting love, even if you know you don’t need it. You recognise that it’s inherently human to seek connection. It’s par for the course. So when it sweeps into your life, like a fallen leaf drifting into a yard in the late Autumn breeze, you embrace it and when it gets tough, you do the work and you fight for it.

You just gotta learn to stop fighting for the wrong ones. And that’s who you’re ultimately mad at, yourself. Not them and all their self-centred behaviour and the hurt that they invoked in the process of getting what they wanted. It’s you, because you knew who they were when you met them and you loved them all the same. You chose to show up, day in, day out, with unconditional love and did the work, for the both of you, even when you were angry and sad and anxiously falling apart.

You admit to the days you failed yourself, the days you clung when you should have let go. The promises you made to change, to learn, to release old patterns and behaviours, that you sadly broke. How you said you wanted to love in a way that felt free, but became so insecure you suffocated instead. You know your faults and you’re always the first to put your hands up and admit to them, because you’re committed to doing better, to getting it right, to finding your balance.

And you know one day, with the right person you will. So you take your hurt and your anger and learn to accept that, just as you were able to love them with all their flaws and faults, so too will other people. You know it’ll take time before you release them and in turn, yourself. You know this person, this moment, will soon be forgotten about and you’ll stop caring whether the world knows the truth or not. You know because you’ve been here before and each time you learn a little more about yourself, even when the other person fails to.

Release

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I’ve come to learn, that the other side of loving, is letting go. Which, for me, was always a problem. For many years I clung, anxiously, maniacally even, to failed romances, as though they were rafts out at sea. I refused to let them go. I couldn’t deal with having given so much, only to end up with nothing but crumbs from their tables. I’d become a starving mouse, seeking nourishment where I thought I could find it and continually failing to do so. How desperate we become though, when we cannot process our losses with the same enthusiasm we count our gains.

Somewhere along the lines though, something changed and whilst I can’t really pinpoint the precise moment or reason that it did, I couldn’t be more thankful. Where once there was unrelenting pain and anger, now there is simply this feeling of gratitude and empathy, this odd lightness that only comes with understanding something and being able to let it the fuck go.

A friend once said to me, that they’d never known anyone, besides myself, who was friends with so many of their exes and at the time, I was quite surprised and yet, thinking about it, neither really do I. In fact, prior to the past few years, I would never have imagined hanging out with someone I’d previously been romantically linked with. My wild Leonian heart would have been so butt hurt, that I would have either been trying very unsuccessfully to rekindle the flame or angrily burning them to the ground…metaphorically speaking.

Fast-forward to the present day though and I’m not just hanging out with my exes, but we’re all doing group hangs! I’m not even kidding when I say that it’s not unusual for me to look around the room and see at least two of my last loves deep in conversation. It’s also not unusual for me to be on speed-dial when they’re having a relationship crisis of their own with someone altogether new. The latter of which is what has cemented for me the beauty of release.

So much hurt goes down in a relationship. It’s unfortunately inevitable and however much you try, it’s somewhat unavoidable to a degree. Sure, no one sets out to hurt someone, (unless they’re a sociopath) but even when trying our best, sometimes it just happens, because, ultimately, we don’t enter into relationships with clean slates. Not even our first foray into dating gets a reprieve from the backpack of emotional detritus we carry around. And it’s precisely this baggage, which gains in weight over the course of many years and lovers, that ends up hurting both others and ultimately, ourselves.

Befriending my defunct partners has given me so much clarity, into not only myself and my patterns, but also into them and theirs. When you’re first dating someone, you sweep over their cracks with wide-eyed romantic visions and when shit hits the fan, suddenly all the cracks become caverns and you demonise them to within an inch of themselves, so as to somehow make sense of why it hurts so God damned much! And often, when you can’t find resolve, you banish them to the blocked list and they become nothing but a shit-ex anecdote that you regale to yourself when you lament being single and still searching.

Yet, there’s this new thing I’ve discovered once you get past the burning effigies part: you stop seeing them as the person that hurt you and start seeing them once again as simply just a person. With, like you, feelings and their own bog of emotional bullshit that they’re wading through. And suddenly, all the pain and anguish that they put you through, ceases to be about you, because in truth, a lot of it really isn’t. Which, of course, is initially really hard to get past when there’s a blockade of negative feelings, like resentment and disappointment. We want someone to blame, we want someone to take responsibility for the way in which they’ve made us feel, intentional or otherwise. Yet, annoying as it is, we actually need to do that for ourselves first and that release, not only serves us, but it serves to make space for the other person too.

I’m not saying that I’m on best friend terms with all of my exes, but I am at peace with them all. Even the ones who made me suicidal at times, with their lies, betrayals and exit strategies. It’s fair to say I’ve gone through enough heart-shattering disappointments with this lot to see me sob myself to sleep for weeks, if not months. But even still, I have such gratitude for all of it and for them. Our post-coitus relationship has allowed me to truly get to know them without the rose-tinted, oxytocin-induced blinders on. And as a result, they’ve shown me more honesty and vulnerability in our platonic relationship than they ever did in our romantic one.

Listening to a man you once wept over, lose his shit in an anxious breakdown over a girl he just met, is nothing short of fucking beautiful, let me tell you! It’s almost like the oddest form of recompense, seeing for the first time, that he too is an emotional wrecking ball, desperately seeking to be loved and fucking it up due to a deeply entrenched need to self-protect. I have truly never known anything more releasing than that and the more I’ve experienced it, the more I’ve come to understand my own history, habits and patterns and the more forgiving I’ve become.

“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And sometimes, we really don’t know, we’re just doing the best we can with the understanding of ourselves that we have. The lack of which is often what causes the maelstrom to begin with. “People can only meet you at the depth with which they have met themselves.” It’s a fruitless endeavour to seek answers and closure from the ones that have hurt you, because their hurting you is purely indicative of where they’re currently at with themselves, not with you. So, the only way to let it go is to accept it and understand it, as best you can, because that’s what helps yourself to grow and that’s taking responsibility.