Today I had a difficult conversation with a resident about my scars, and it has reinforced why I am doing this. Also a note on battles, and how you are not losing yours.
This time last year I was in one of my darkest ever places, and I didn’t think I would carry on. I tried to not carry on.
Thinking of that time now, guilt and sadness settle on me like a blanket it’s hard to creep out from under.
But I also realise this: in surviving, in getting through it, I made a commitment to being alive.
Over the summer, I suffered a pretty serious episode and it made me question that commitment (I wasn’t actually certain that the things in my life were real to begin with). Even so, I clung on and I’m still here.
In some ways, I’ve been coasting the last few months, doing nothing especially exciting, nothing especially interesting, in terms of what I actually plan to “do” with my life. This month I’ve been looking at PhDs, and other possibilities for my future. It isn’t a “new year” kick. It’s more of a year-that-might-not-have-been kick. I am renewing the commitment I made last year to being alive, and not just to being alive but to living, to thriving.
A family member of mine- the lovely partner of a very close cousin- passed away at the end of last week. He was so young, and the shocking news has shaken my family. I didn’t meet him many times, but I knew him well enough to know how happy he made my cousin and their family.
Maybe I’m wording this wrong. He’s not around anymore- not physically– but it’s not about how happy he made them. It’s about how happy he will continue to make them. Nobody who makes such an impact will ever be gone, or forgotten. Amidst the grief and shock and pain, I’ve seen so many posts and stories about how kind he was, how funny and how great. He will always also have the power to make people happy, even through stories about his life, even through photos of his smile. The girls will continue to love him. My cousin will continue to love him. My family, and his of course, will continue to love him- no matter how much time passes.
I wanted to write this to express my love and sadness for my family, especially my beautifully strong cousin and her amazing girls. I also wanted to celebrate his life as I’ve seen it: the caring way he acted, the silly moments with my cousin and the girls, the love that surrounded him. I wish I had known him better, but I’m glad that I knew him at all.
Rest peacefully. You’ll always be around.
“It’s OK to say you were happy,” M says. “I don’t expect you to have been miserable all the time before me. It’s OK to say you were happy with other women.”
It’s a sudden, strange realisation that she’s right. It’s very unlikely that I was horribly unhappy, all of the time, in every single one of the half-a-lifetime of relationships before I met her three years ago. In a buried sort of way, I think remembering the small, happy moments always feels like a betrayal. When you’re with someone, you’re fully with her, and it’s easy to minimise the good points about anyone else. It’s the way children behave with their friends: anyone your “very best friend” doesn’t like (even if you do like them) can easily become the absolute worst, in a bid to validate the “very best friendship.”
Hearing, from M, that it doesn’t have to be this way is refreshing, because it allows for a third space. It’s common for people to say “I wasn’t really in love before; I just thought I was.” This is said so often and by so many people that it takes on the role of cliche, of myth. It validates the love you’re in now, by invalidating the love(s) you were in before. Knowing that M didn’t need this kind of negative validation- that she felt OK, secure, with us- was so reassuring. It means neither of us need ever lie about our pasts.
I’ve realised that it doesn’t have to be like that. I love who I’m with. I am fully immersed in that- in the rightness of that. I really believe that nothing before has come close to being this good (through my fault, through the fault of others, through no-one’s fault at all). I have never been so peaceful. That doesn’t mean I have never been happy before, or that the happiness before was false, or that I never felt any love, of any kind, for anyone else. One thing (or person) being the best doesn’t mean that every other thing (or person) was the worst.
The brief moments in which I realised this were a swift re-writing of history, a highlighting of the rights amidst the wrongs. The unhappiness and the horrible moments were not, and cannot be, erased. I don’t want tinted sunglasses. But I realised that this history- of rights as well as wrongs, of fun as well as misery- makes me appreciate our present (and future) all the more. There is less satisfaction in contrasting the negative with the positive, than there is in contrasting the OK with the amazing.
An interlude in my A-Z challenge!
Today I saw a friend I haven’t seen in years. We grew up together, lived in the same block of flats, went to the same school. Our paths diverged for a time when I went to a different secondary school. Then I returned for sixth form, and we picked up as though we had never left off. It was like that today: time has passed, we are older and a lot has happened, but there was no awkwardness and in some ways it was as though nothing had changed at all. There are some people I can trust instinctively and we shared details of our lives I wouldn’t have been comfortable divulging to just anyone. Later on, she met my girlfriend and it was great to see them get on. Every time my girlfriend meets someone I love, and every time I meet someone she loves, it cements something for me. Maybe cement isn’t the right word- the material is more flexible than cement, allows for more…
I’ve been thinking a lot about my friendships recently. Not long ago I made a trip to Canterbury to see some people I haven’t seen in a long time. Uni friends and “recovery friends”. Again, it was as if little time had passed. I came away with a positive feeling that I hadn’t had for a while- the feeling of acceptance that you get with true friendship. These are people who have seen me at my worst and are now seeing me at my best. The people who saw me at my worst and didn’t leave me there. The people I accept unconditionally, and expect nothing from. In the last couple of years, I have had some difficult experiences in terms of friendship. People who washed their hands of me as though I were a stain. People who broke my trust. People who passed into and then out of my life as lightly as leaves. That’s how life is. People come and go. But some people stay, and those are the people I want and need in my life.
“These are just ghosts that broke my heart before I met you”
Laura Marling- Ghosts
Without going into too much detail, I am really happy with someone. Now and then, old insecurities touch my mind, and I become unreasonable, easily hurt. Memories of past relationships ghost me. I recall old dynamics, old patterns of behaviour, and it taints my judgement of what I have before me: something beautiful, something special, something honest.
I believe it’s like that for most people with a relationship history. It’s hard not to let memories get in the way of the present, not to let old shadows cast themselves in the path of the real.
Once, I was with someone who would say “I’ll be back at six” and roll in at twelve. Someone who would make me feel secondary to friends, or even acquaintances, and put our plans second sometimes. It hurt; I’m over it. I’m not laying blame. I wasn’t blameless. But I’m with someone now who doesn’t, and wouldn’t, do those things to me. There have been a couple of instances where I have let the past shade my vision of the present, even broadcast into visions of the future. It doesn’t have to be like that.
I’m not “in recovery” in the same way any more. I drink. I smoke. I have thought patterns and habits it would be better not to have. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned things about myself. I am still developing self-respect, cradling the notion that I am worth loving and letting it grow in my arms. Someone once said to me, “you turn the feeling that you are unloved, into the notion that you are not lovable.” That is exactly what I did and it took a long time to flip-side that: people do love me and therefore I am worth loving. And beyond that: even if nobody loved me, that wouldn’t mean I wasn’t worthy.
Like everyone else, I need to stand face-to-face with the ghosts of my past and push them away. Remember that what happened then is not what is happening now. Remember that the old saying “history repeats itself” is only true if you let it repeat itself. Refuse to let it repeat itself.
Insecurity is a horrible thing but I have braced myself against it as though it were just a cold wind, and I am wrapped in many jackets: love, respect, trust and self-belief. Sometimes it touches my face or my ears and for an instant I am powerless against it but on the whole I am safe. I know I am safe.