Song for today: Candles by Daughter.

Before I write anything else, I feel the need to comment on the fact that it’s the THIRTY-FIRST OF AUGUST.  How.  How did this happen?  How the frickety frick is it September tomorrow?  This year has been utterly crazy, right from the stroke of midnight in my friend’s living room – soon to be mine! – drunk as a skunk, having one of the best nights in history with some of my best friends and the ex-love-of-my-life.  It involved activities such as: cleaning up puke (not mine); having one of those girly bonding moments where there are five of you in the bathroom, all taking it in turns to pee because you can’t possibly stop talking in order to make it an independent operation; reading Paradise Lost alone in an empty room for a good while until I was hunted down (at a party! told you I was cool); deciding that moustache plasters were the way forward and therefore plastering them on everyone in sight; trying to wear ALL THE HATS; having numerous things stuffed down my cleavage, including a drink, and drinking from it while it was down there, furthering and cementing my reputation as a breast exhibitionist (breastibitionist?); four-way spooning in a bed with some of the aforementioned friends, analysing which spoons we were; epic chatting, as usual, with my twin fast-and-long conversationalist; and hugging a robot in Burger King at 6am.  If my year doesn’t end in a similar way to its inauguration I will be very disappointed.  I don’t know how it can, really, due to most of the participating revellers having moved away, and of course my new status as a single lady, but I hope it will still be brilliant.  I have had an amazing year and it should be book-ended appropriately.  And I need my friends more than ever so I hope that they will be there to propel me into 2013 with their hugs, unwavering loyalty, love, and plenty of vodka.  Obviously vodka.  And hopefully no sick.

Anyway, following on from that exercise in reminiscence is my song for today.  This summer, two of the friends that I partied so well with on NYE joined me at a festival called Secret Garden Party.  It’s a music festival but at the time I wasn’t that excited about the music, I was more excited about being with my friends, dressing up and having a brilliant time.  I did all of those things but also really ended up enjoying the music (of course), especially this band, Daughter, who were probably my musical highlight of the festival.  I only say probably because I saw Orbital immediately after witnessing one of the most astounding and awe-inspiring fireworks displays that I’ve ever seen, and they were brilliant too, so as an experience it’s probably not going to be topped. Daughter are possibly the best band that I’ve seen this year though, and I saw loads, including the ridiculously camp and enjoyable of Montreal, and Explosions in the Sky, whose music feels like it forms part of my DNA.  So it’s high praise here from me.

I haven’t been this excited – and fangirly – about a band for a long time.  Elena Tonra, the singer, has a beautiful, haunting voice that manages to cut deep, straight into that well of misery and pain and longing and hope and love and all those other emotions that you thought you’d cleverly hidden under layers of denial and self-protection.  Or maybe that’s just me (probably just me).  As she sings, her words blow through all of your shoddily erected defences like the Big Bad Wolf blowing the house down.  Her voice is the highlight of the songs, no mean feat when the music itself is almost equally stunning.  It’s like in America’s Next Top Model, when the judges wax lyrical about “the eyes” and how if you’re not really feeling it then it won’t communicate with the audience properly, or something along those lines.  Elena has the ability to encapsulate the emotions of the song, whether it’s through a waver or a whisper.  Maybe because she wrote it and is therefore feeling it, or has felt it.  Either way I don’t care, because it’s marvellous.  I am in love.  Hopefully I will see them play in January, with the friends who shared the last Daughter experience at Secret Garden Party.  Unfortunately there is a distinct possibility that this time it won’t involve lying down in a haze of sunshine and vodka, wearing a wedding dress and felted headwear with antlers.  Just a hunch.

This isn’t even my favourite song of theirs (that accolade goes to Youth, which is immense, and which will probably pop up here soon anyway because I am obsessed with it).  But it’s special to me and I’m feeling it today.  From the first plucks of the guitar to her last, extremely faint “oooh”, she has me there with her, hook, line and sinker.

“Just a young heart confusing my mind, but we’re both in silence, wide-eyed, like we’re in a crime scene.”

Song for today: Grey by Ani Difranco.

Everything is grey today.  Possibly black.  I am heartbroken and I hate it.  Of course I hate it.  Who likes heartbreak?  And I know that it will keep hitting me, over and over, especially when I keep trying to run away from it.  I’m tired of running.  But I don’t know if I can cope with having a broken heart, so there I go again, running away, running to this, running to that, desperately trying to find some respite from this unbearable pain.  It is such a huge loss.  It feels like a meteor has hit me and left such a huge crater that I just don’t know what to do with it, and I keep chucking stuff in, hoping that it will make it better.  And it can’t.  Nothing can make this better.  Nothing can fill it because it can’t be filled.  It is huge and unavoidable, no matter how much I run, no matter how hard I try to fill it.

“What kind of paradise am I looking for?  I’ve got everything I want, and still I want more”.

I had something so special.  And now I don’t have it anymore.  And I have to live with that, and it hurts. All I can do today is cry, only I can’t even do that properly in case I get my stupid chin wound wet.  The wound that is a direct testament to how far I am willing to run away from of all this pain.  Of course I’m ok, at a wedding a month and a half after I ended the best relationship of my life with one of the loveliest people I know, who I still love, who was supposed to be there with me, celebrating love, revelling in our love, talking about when we would eventually honour it in the same way.  I’m fine.  I can cope with it.  I can cope with everything, right?  Because that’s what I do.  Only I don’t, at all, do I?  I just slap a plaster over a gaping wound and tell it to stop bleeding, and get pissed off when it doesn’t.

I need to stop running, and I don’t know how.  I don’t know if I can just sit with it and ride it out.  I don’t know how much of a friend I can be to myself right now.  I am trying so hard, but it’s difficult and I keep fucking up.  And that’s normal, but I hate fucking up, and so I try and deal with that in the same way too.  Avoidance.  Denial.  Distraction.  I am so good at looking after other people but I don’t really know how to look after myself when the going gets tough.  It’s a very difficult lesson to learn.

“And my little pink heart is on its little brown raft, floating out to sea.”

I wish there was something that could make it better.  How can something be so right, so beautiful, and yet not enough?  How can that be ok?  How can I reconcile letting go of someone so special, when they love me so much that they will sit there in A&E for hours with me while I vomit non-stop and bleed over myself because I drank so much that I fell and gashed my face?  How I could I not be happy with that?  I am allowed to want more but it feels so wrong.  So ungrateful, so heartless, so unthinking.  And yet all I did for months was think.  About how I was feeling, why it wasn’t working for me anymore, how to save it.  I couldn’t save it.  Sometimes things are worth saving but still can’t be saved.  It seems implausible to me.  I understand why people pray.  I wish I could do it.  I need something to hold onto, because I feel like everything that I know has vanished and I am without a compass.

Recently there has been such a wild oscillation between Life Is Great and Life Is Shit.  And today, life is so shit that even Holby City couldn’t cheer me up.  Instead it was just a reminder of who I am; like Tara, a control freak, unable to ask for help, causing problems because she can’t be honest about how she’s feeling.  Like Eddi, fucking up, taking stupid risks, pouring all her energy into something destructive because she’s hurting and doesn’t want to deal with it.  And worst of all, someone who identifies with Holby characters.  That’s when you know things are bad.

So here we are.  Grey.

Song for today: Crazy (live version) by Tori Amos.

I am sitting here today dying (YES, REALLY).  Ok, perhaps not, but I really do feel very ill and it was a monumental effort to get from my bed to the lounge, which is not far at all.  I feel like I deserve a medal or something though.  I can’t even eat properly, which means that I might as well be dead, to be honest.  My face feels like it’s been bashed in with a brick, I can’t swallow without it hurting, and I ache all over.  To use one of my favourite words: WOE.

Anyway, following on from the Scarlet’s Walk post is a post about the song that I have been listening to a lot in the last couple of days. That’s part of the reason I wanted to start this blog, because music is so important to me, and I want to share that, but at the time of writing I have 220 Facebook friends (some that are actually friends!) and I’m guessing that only a handful care about what I am listening to on any given day.  So I needed a better outlet, and here it is.

Crazy is a lovely little song on Scarlet’s Walk.  One of those songs that I loved but that never really reached into my core.  One of the things that I love about life is that sometimes a piece of art (whatever it is), that you have know for years, takes on a different meaning when you have new experiences, or are feeling in a certain way.  In this case, and often for me, it is about a song.

Crazy is one of those songs.  I have always been pretty straight-laced.  I am basically a follower of Rules. There are many reasons for this, but there we go.  I don’t like breaking rules, I stick to boundaries imposed (official and imagined), I don’t tend to take risks.  In recent years that has changed and especially during the time of my most recent break up.  I had a wild, hedonistic patch of summer, full of things that were done purely for pleasure, for *my* pleasure.  I have never really done that before. I had never let myself be solely driven by my wants and desires.  I went out drinking almost every night; I was impulsive; I thought “fuck it” and just went with what I was feeling at the time (I bought a freaking felted deer head-dress that was eye-wateringly expensive, because I wanted it and because I could.  And because I was really, really drunk).  It could never continue long-term, and it had some negative side-effects, but I don’t regret a single second of it.  I had created my own path for a change and it was an incredible experience.

So, now I understand Crazy a bit more. Lyrics are here.  Pretty self-explanatory, although for “unzip your religion down” I see that as being rules, I guess.  My religion being rules and the following of them, and having it all unzipped so I could just go a bit, well, crazy.

It is also a particularly beautiful version, just Tori and the piano, and has a lovely explanation to introduce it.

On Scarlet’s Walk and artistic evolution.

“You say there’s not a lot of me left anymore, just leave it alone”.

Over the last few years, in particular the last year, music has become a significant part of my life again.  Music has always been a pretty big deal to me; when I was nine years old I got a piano. In the years that followed I would play and compose through all the trauma that occurred, so it featured pretty heavily in keeping me as sane as it could (which is not very, but that’s for another time).  My taste in music left a lot to be desired.  I was a classical baby on the one hand, drinking in all that my favourites (Bach, Debussy, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Elgar etc) had to offer, trying to learn their pieces on the piano.  On the other hand I had the non-classical stuff, which I don’t think I really ‘got’ in the same way as I do now.  I was a teenager in the 90s and there were so many amazing bands around that I love now, but completely missed first time around, partly because I was oblivious and partly because I was so obsessed with my classical shiz that I didn’t have much capacity for more.  I loved Alanis Morisette, Oasis, No Doubt, Symposium, Alisha’s Attic – and still do – but mostly listened to bad chart stuff, and didn’t have a passion for many bands/artists.  It’s a bit gutting when I could have been listening to the stuff that I love now that I was actually around for at its inception!  Radiohead being a biggie.  For GOD’S SAKE.  It’s also different to where I am now, where music is always around me, where I listen to something I love every day, discover new bands and frequently go to gigs.  I have many favourites now.  And I become easily obsessed – if a song means something to me or I just really love it I have no problems playing it on repeat for hours.  Days, even.  My ex ended up hating Zebra by Beach House because I could listen to it for hours on end, and apparently that’s not normal, plus if you don’t really care for the song, it’s also irritating.  Whoops.  It almost has a meditative quality, though, listening to something on repeat for that long.  It changes how you experience the song.

So.  Recently I had an urge to listen to the album Scarlet’s Walk by Tori Amos.  In many ways Tori was my first true non-classical musical love.  I was obsessed.  Not stalking obsessed, but her music made me feel something that nothing else had done before.  It connected with a part of me that nobody, possibly not even myself, had ever understood.  The lyrics, oh my god.  And the piano.  Being a piano aficionado endeared me to her so much; I really knew what she meant when she said that her piano was her best friend.  And so she became mine, or at least her music did.  The internet was Not Cool at that point in time – but then, neither was I – and I was on it.  A lot.  Through it I met people who I am still friends with, twelve years later, and also joined a forum that was basically a Tori Amos fan site.  A haven to discuss the weird, poetic lyrics, to get excited over new albums, share photos, how we interpreted the songs, what it all meant.  It was an important thing for me to have at that moment in my life.  I knew nobody in my offline world who understood it all, and by extension me, so it was a pivotal experience for me to have found something of a flock after feeling so alone and misunderstood, as you often do when you’re a teenager.

Scarlet’s Walk is, to me, the last good album that Tori Amos made before she turned into a plastic-faced weirdo.  That might seem harsh, but I will argue my case.  This woman turned out album after album and despite being an acquired taste, they were consistently good and did something different every time, pushing the boundaries of what she had done before.  I am not alone in these thoughts.  It is profoundly disappointing to have someone who was such an inspiration, who made such beautiful music, fall down so far in your estimations and start producing what mostly amounts to bland, uninspiring filler.  There have been many discussions over the last ten years about the decline of her musical output, with previous hardcore fans like myself turning away because what attracted us to her in the first place is no longer there. This is a woman who was truly radiant, who exuded sexuality without pandering to the stereotypical patriarchal ideal of it, and who gave a lot of inspiration and hope to those of us who were a bit weird, who didn’t fit in.  That wasn’t her job, or her responsibility, so that’s not really what I have issues with, but I am going somewhere with this.  She appeared very real, if a bit nuts.  Definitely nuts.  I find her more nuts now though.  I obviously can’t ever claim to have known her, but her persona at least has gone from something genuine to something so utterly contrived that I can’t believe it’s the same person.  Of course, if we’re talking personas, they’re all contrived to a certain extent, but what I mean is that she was, well, normal.  She was a normal woman who had been through some shit and was a bit ‘kooky’ (ugh) but expressed that through well-crafted music and touched other people through that.  It was simple.  It wasn’t dressed up, and neither was she.  And even if you didn’t get the emotional stuff and thought it was all bullshit, like many did, there was still an incredible talent there that produced some cracking music.

Since Scarlet’s Walk, the focus has shifted from the music onto a seemingly carefully constructed image, fripperies like seed packets and stickers and other shit that nobody cares about.  Gimmicks.  And what I never got from Tori before was gimmicks; I got raw, blow-your-socks-off, emotional music.  It still exists through some of her songs, but I think that for me, and many others, what made Tori’s music so different, so beautiful, was that rawness.  It was stripped bare.  And when you wrap that up in layers of fluff, it becomes diminished, how can it not?  That is without mentioning the nasal voice, the magazine shoots, the plastic surgery, the constant references to designer stuff, ‘Husband’, confusing rambling interviews that don’t appear to convey anything about the music at all, the samey quality to a lot of her current output.  Tori was a package to me, but if she had done all the image stuff and still churned out amazing music, I could deal with that.  Go mad for Jimmy Choo (his shoes are amazing, let’s be fair) and dress like a doll all you want as long as your music is still good. But it’s all been a steady decline, which is why it matters.  She used to be political without making it all about politics.  Her references to sexual violence, healing from that and co-founding RAINN (The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) are some of the most political things that she’s done, especially brave at the time, when it wasn’t as widely publicised (and dare I say it, popular) as it is now.  Although she has always mentioned politics and religion, it was never quite the overt crusade that it has been in recent years, rambling on about America and Bush and even about being a ‘lioness’, a ‘strong woman’, ‘bringing home the bacon’.  It doesn’t translate through the music, it all falls flat.  That’s why it seems contrived.  It’s all talk and no trousers, all this bumf that runs alongside her current albums, whereas before you felt it even if you knew nothing about her.  It was just there, shining out like a light to those that needed it.  It’s the difference between Past the Mission and Hoochie Woman, as perfectly illustrated by these two live performances:

In a couple of months it will be a decade since Scarlet’s Walk came out.  So much has changed in that time.  When it came out, I had also just come out. I was discovering more about who I was, how I saw the world, how I related to it.  I remember being at uni when it was released and checking the forums constantly, playing the album over and over, this new record by this fabulous woman who had played such a part in the last three years of my life.  I didn’t love it like I loved her other albums (some fans see the decline starting from this album, and I can see why).  I didn’t like the way that most of the songs ended the same, there was less focus on the piano, musically there was nothing as outstanding for me as there were on her previous records.  But there are absolute gems on there, and some brilliant lyrics, Carbon especially.  I remember before the album came out as well, running through the tracklisting, with everyone going, “Is A Sorta Fairytale a joke?  Really?” Good times.  Little did we know that we’d eventually get a song called Fat Slut.  Hah.

The album isn’t my favourite of hers by any means, and due to the rubbish that she’s put out recently, it’s no longer my least favourite either.  I haven’t listened to her newest couple of albums and don’t even care what she releases anymore, which is sad.  I am not invested in her anymore as an artist.  I don’t want her to produce the same music as before, though, that’s not what I’m after.  She’s changed, grown up; so have I, so it’s not that want her to recreate the past.  But out of all the artists/bands I love, she is the one that hasn’t continued to evolve positively, musically.  Or more accurately, the one who has had the furthest fall from grace.  It’s not about the angst, as lots of die-hard fans still think, although of course that’s part of why I love her older stuff, although I listen to it a lot less, because hey!  Less angst!  Take Polly Harvey and Bjork; the three women famously graced a magazine cover together in the 90s, being the most prominent female artists at that time.  Polly and Bjork have still grown up, they have evolved, but their music still has that undeniable and unmistakeable artistic spark.  That’s what’s missing from Tori’s music now.  She’s lost it.  There is no spark and no fire, for me and for a lot of people like me.

Of course, having written all this, I have just decided to see her live for the first time since 2005 with one of my closest friends, one who I shared that Tori devotion with, first over a screen, and then in the flesh.  It’s an orchestral tour and after much umming and ahhing I decided to go for it because the Tori + orchestra thing is one that I have wanted to see for years.  If it’s not great (fully expecting this, based on the last time I saw her and all her recent stuff) it will serve as some sort of funeral to all of this, perhaps, and I can do some angsty teenage weeping into my hip flask.

I will leave you with one of the best songs on Scarlet’s Walk, Gold Dust.  It’s a poignant song about love, and loss, and important moments in life that have become cherished memories.  Beautiful and apt, given the content of this post.

On judgement, and judging others.

We all judge other people, and their decisions, and yet who are we to judge? We only experience our own world and our own emotions, driven by whatever is going on in our lives at the time, compounded by what has gone before.  People make mistakes.  People get scared.  It’s fear that makes us fuck up a lot of the time, that enables those  mistakes to be made.  I know it, despite not having taken that hypothesis and turned it into a statistically valid study.  I know it because I’m scared myself and have been been more so in the past.  How can I, for example, judge someone for staying with a partner they’re not that happy with and not sure that they’re really right for, when I felt those same feelings towards an ex of mine for years before I broke up with him?  At the time I didn’t know anything other than my life with him; I was horribly depressed, and terrified of leaving, terrified of being alone, terrified of the unknown.  The circumstances were slightly unusual, maybe, but it’s not really external factors that have the biggest influence.  It’s about inner confidence, strength and the knowledge that everything will be ok in the end, that you will be ok in the end.  For various reasons most of us don’t have all of that, and even if we do it might only be in certain aspects and areas of our lives.  Taking risks can be very, very difficult.  I never used to take any, which meant I didn’t really have a life at all. Recently I’ve taken quite a few, in the shape of changing jobs, ending my relationship, and accepting a place at Uni to do a course that will leave me without a job and financially screwed over (which is a petrifying thought to a control freak like me).  It took me a long time to get to that point though, and although the process of therapy helped me – and continues to help me – I had to do it under my own steam.  Nobody could do it but me, nobody could give me the impetus, it was a path that I had to go down alone, albeit made a lot easier by a steady stream of cheerleaders on the side lines.  If you don’t have those cheerleaders, what then?  My friends and family, and my most recent ex, have all been fantastically supportive.  When I didn’t have that support during previous times in my life, things felt almost impossible to achieve – like breaking up with the ex I mentioned at the start of this post.

One of the very strong memories that I have from my old job is of being sat around a table, listening to an older woman regale us with a story of how one of her adult sons had completely cut her, her husband and the rest of her family out of his life.  She went into great detail about how the decision had affected her, how horrible it was, how selfish he was, how difficult he had made their lives and how much all of them (his parents and his siblings), missed him and his children.  We all nodded and sympathetically murmured in agreement.  She said that before he had cut them off, he had sent a letter to her and her husband, which she has never read and which is tucked away in a drawer somewhere.  She knows where it is.  When I asked why she hadn’t read it, she explained that her husband had read it and had been so affected by it, had cried so much, that she didn’t want to read it.  That her husband was the most unselfish and amazing man, so her selfish, wayward son had obviously written something very nasty to make him that upset.

Everyone around me agreed. “Well of course he’d write something horrible, look at what he’s done!”, they all pretty much crowed.  They all sat back and seemed satisfied that she had done the right thing.

I, on the other hand, was aghast.  I tried not to show it, because it was obviously a very upsetting and sensitive subject for her.  But there were so many questions I wanted to ask her.  Why couldn’t she just bring herself to read the letter?  Why did she automatically assume that her son was evil for cutting contact with her and her family?  Why did she see her husband as flawless?  What if he wasn’t and actually had done something terrible to her son and that is why he wanted to break all contact with his family?  What if he had been abused or hurt in some way?  I was finding it really difficult to understand why she didn’t just read the letter and make up her own mind.  And yeah, I judged her for it.

But you know what?  She was scared, and in denial.  By not reading the letter she had made the decision to put her husband before her son, choosing instead to ignore the situation, think the worst of her son and continue her life as it was.  That he was bad but everything else was fine and unchanged.  The letter could have contained nothing bad about her family.  It could have been a bile-filled rant that was all made up and came from nowhere…maybe he’d had a breakdown or something.  Maybe it made no sense whatsoever.  Perhaps her son was just a shitbag.  But she will never know, because fear stopped her from asking her husband what it was in the letter that affected him so deeply, stopped her from opening the drawer and reading it, stopped her from knowing the truth, whatever that was.  Truth can be powerful and can cause a lot of damage.  Seeing things as they really are can cause pain, can wreck lives.  This is why denial and repression are our greatest allies, in the short term (I think that long term they cause more harm, like, say, leaving subsidence untreated in comparison to, I don’t know, a tree falling through your window, but others may disagree, and of course I’d agree, because I’m in therapy…).  They allow you the safety of believing what you want to believe, living the life closest to the one that you want to live, the one that you are most comfortable living, the life that you see yourself in.  They allow you to live your life blinkered, or maybe with those famous rose-tinted glasses.  They make it all ok, even if it’s only for a bit.  And who, really, can judge someone for that?  Everyone’s done it at some point, to a certain extent.  Everyone’s doing it.  Not everyone has the capacity or courage to say, “Right.  Today I am going to decide to confront my demons and fuck up my life in the short term, knowing that it will get better but that for a while, possibly a long while, it will sometimes be shit and I will occasionally hate things and wish that I’d never embarked on this stupid journey”.  Not that I have ever uttered words along those lines.  Ever.  Ahem.

I guess it’s like doing a house renovation by yourself, only on yourself and your life.  And you don’t make any money out of it, in fact the opposite; you pay someone to often help you feel a bit rubbish – that’s why every therapist’s room has that ubiquitous, ominous box of tissues.  And it takes ages, longer than you thought it would, and of course once you start, you see all the bits that you didn’t notice before that also need repairing, because the fucking floor took so long to fix that it completely escaped your notice that the roof had fallen in.  Great.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all deal with things in different ways.  Some of us deal with it by sweeping it under the carpet, some of us bury our heads in the sand, some run away by travelling or taking drugs or changing jobs or moving cities, thinking that it will change everything, make everything better.  And there’s no right or wrong way, really, but exploring it is probably a good thing.  It’s hard but it really does help you understand yourself better, and you only live once, so why not try and make it the best life you possibly can?  You can do up your house how you want, you don’t have to keep the shitty 70s flocked wallpaper that you never really wanted, but that’s always been there, niggling away in the background.  It also keeps therapists and tissue manufacturers in business, and, eventually, will probably make you feel a bit better.  Well, a lot better.  About a thousand boxes of tissues later, though.

On the word “should”.

I am trying to discard the word “should” a bit more.  I should be stronger; I should be able to just carrying on functioning completely as normal despite having had my life change quite dramatically in the shape of a relationship breakdown and the death of a pet; I should go back to work three days after ending up in A&E with a panic attack that was so severe that one of my colleagues thought I was having a stroke; during my time off work sick I should tidy my flat and sort stuff out for moving; I should use the time off wisely and not just piss around doing nothing like I usually do; I should, I should, I should.

There is endless pressure, all the time, always.  From myself.  Nobody else is doing or saying this, it’s all me.  I have subsequently tried to look after myself by going to the doctor and asking for some time off (and as an actual first, recognising that I need it), asking my therapist for more sessions etc.  But this pressure within, it still builds, even though I know that I should (hah!) stop it and just give myself a freaking break.

So today, instead of coming home from my morning session and sorting out all the various things that I “should” sort out, I went and browsed my favourite second hand book store.  I bought an unholy amount of books, books that I want but don’t need, and went and sat on a bench in my favourite park and read.  And when I got tired of the bench because I wasn’t getting any sun, I went and lay down on the grass and soaked up the warmth reaching out from above me.  And when I finished that book, I chose the next book that I wanted to read from the vast pile before me, opened it up and carried on reading.

It was wonderful.  I believe that’s what they call “living in the moment”.  I like to think that I’m really good at that, but I don’t think I am.  I think that actually, most of the time I impose a bunch of rules on myself, for whatever reason.  Yes, housework is important and I need to sort stuff out.  But what’s more important right now is making sure that I look after myself a bit (I believe they call it nurturing in the therapy world), because I have nobody to do it for me and should (there goes that word again) expect nobody else to do it for me.  I’ve been a bit rubbish about that recently, and actually, that’s the only thing that I probably “should” change.  Nobody will die if I don’t tidy the house, it’s not as if I’m living in squalor and that I’m going to be featured on one of those Grime programmes about hoarders, it’s just a bit messy right now.  And my stuff can wait, I’m not moving for another month.  And, so…relax. *noise of pressure releasing*

Everyone deserves a bit of what they need, which is different to the stuff that you think you deserve (like that bottle of wine after a hard day, perhaps, to help you cope – that’s mindless indulgence, or just a coping strategy).  I mean the stuff that you actually need.  It’s a difficult task, though, actually trying to work out what that is, to know what you need, really need.  It’s easy to get it wrong, when you might not be able to ask yourself what you need in that moment, in case you don’t get the right answer, one that tallies up with what you think you want, or what you think you should have.  What I needed then was to lie in the sunshine and laugh at stories that transported me to another world while allowing me to enjoy the one that I inhabit, feeling the grass between my toes.  And it was fucking ace.  And one of the few times that I was able to really ask myself what I need, figure it out, and feed it.  Amazing.

On relationships, Eternal Sunshine, and being alone.

As I wrote yesterday, I am newly single.  I was with my ex (ouch – still feels weird and horrible to say) for two and a half years, which in the grand scheme of things was not a long time.  It was still a significant period of time though, and overall it was a happy, fun, deeply trusting, love-filled relationship.  I ended it.  For a number of reasons, mostly because I had changed a lot since we got together.  I have been having counselling since last year and I am working on old issues that are still an undercurrent to my behaviour and how I feel day-to-day, although due to being an undercurrent they only tend to pop up in times of crisis.  Everybody has them, to some extent, but I want to have a relationship with mine (horribly wanky…and you either get it, or you don’t), or at least to understand them, because they’re part of who I am.  I felt as though I needed to really focus on myself for a while and that is difficult to do when you are in a committed, loving relationship.  I needed to have no commitment, no emotional ties and no responsibilities to anyone other than myself.  And I’ve changed in that time.  The way we related to each other had changed.  I do believe in making a relationship work, I’m all for it.  Sometimes, though, you have to realise why you’re making that decision; whether it’s because you want to cling on to what you had, even though it doesn’t exist anymore, or whether it’s because there is enough of a foundation despite the differences to keep going.  I struggled for so long, because I felt that there was a lot to save, and I desperately wanted to save it. In the end, I felt that the differences were too vast, that I had changed too much, and there you have it.  Now I am single.  A single figure.  Alone.

I have never really been properly single.  I remember looking at serial monogamist friends of mine, jumping from relationship to relationship, and not understanding why.  But since I’ve actually been in relationships, I’ve done the same, only without the guise of the word ‘relationship’.  I haven’t necessarily been shacked up with someone but there has always BEEN someone, whether they were ‘mine’ or not.  And now I am in this situation, I know why people do this.  It is fucking scary being alone, especially if you don’t necessarily have a happy stable family background as an emotional safety net.  It’s all about feeling safe, isn’t it?  Or at least, I think it is to me.  There is a safety in being held, in knowing that you have someone to look out for you.  There is also a safety in being able to hold that person and look after them in return (and as something that I am good at, possibly more so for me).  There is a beauty that exists in romantic relationships that cannot be mirrored in friendships or indeed any other kind of relationship.  Don’t misunderstand me, friendships can be and are beautiful things; as complicated as romantic entanglements, certainly, sometimes deeper, sometimes more intimate, and often more important.  I love my friends, dearly, and without them my life would be filled with less love, laughter and understanding.  And yet…and yet.  It’s not the same is it?  Which is why people do bed-hop, go from person to person, seek out another romance, whatever you want to call it.  The kinship that comes with sharing your life so closely with another human being is a special and wondeful thing.  No wonder we crave it, try so hard to hold onto it, try so desperately hard to recreate it.

Yesterday I had to go out to buy some food and ended up having a DVD binge at a secondhand shop.  One of the films that I bought was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of the most beautiful I’ve seen and one of my favourites.  One of the other films I bought, which I watched yesterday, was Eat, Pray, Love (shhh at the back there…wanted some fluff) which I actually really enjoyed, despite its multiple flaws, but parts of it hit very close to home and I had to pause it for half an hour in the way one does when one is crying so hard that banshee wailing is occuring, punctuated only by deep gulping and occasional hyperventilation.  It was a bit fluffy new age but also resonant in why she was embarking on the journey.  From the film: “Since I was 15 I have either been with a guy or breaking up with a guy, I haven’t had so much as two weeks just to deal with myself”.  Sort of sums up why I am doing what I am doing.  Why despite being terrified of being single, I have made myself so.  And in looking for quotes from the film, found these two brilliant ones from the book (which I now intend to read, even if I am mocked mercilessly for it):

“When I get lonely these days I think, so be lonely Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life, welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”

“Moreover, I have boundary issues with men…to have issues with boundaries, one must have boundaries in the first place right? But I disappear into the person I love….if I love you, you can have everything. you can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, my dogs money, my dogs time- everything……I will give you all this and more until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else. I do not relay these facts about myself with pride but this is how its always been.”

I do this!  Oh, I do this.  I’m not proud of it, as she says.  But that’s how I am.  How I ‘operate’.  I love intensely and deeply and fully and that’s not wrong, but it is if it’s at the expense of losing or compromising yourself.  I have never really learnt that balance and it will be interesting to find out how that comes about.

So onto Eternal Sunshine.  Oh gosh.  Never mind all this pain and anguish, the horrible who-gets-to-keep-what, the thought of having to change my next of kin, all that…I would never erase what I had with my ex, the memories and the experiences that we shared.  In the same way that the counselling has been a bit of a Matrix metaphor (prompted by this amazing cartoon), I still would rather feel it all than erase it and pretend it never happened, even though currently it is mostly really fucking shit.  However, my opinion about the end of the movie has changed.  I think. (That’s the problem, nothing is simple, is it? I feel as though it’s changed but I’m still on the fence a bit, because I WANT to believe, dammit.)

I used to think that the ending was so romantic, so perfect.  That they will love each other despite the flaws and give it a go.  And it IS romantic, but romance isn’t everything.  It reminds me of All You Need is Love by The Beatles: “All you need is love.  Love is all you need”.  And I strongly disagree.  It’s not all you need.  I loved my ex partners but that does not make a relationship.  It does not always make you happy.  It can make you sad because you feel as though if you have love, if you are loved, then you SHOULD be alright, and that you shouldn’t be dissatisfied or pissed off or want more, because you supposedly have it all, what people want, what everyone strives for.

Clementine reminds me of myself, and I wish she didn’t, but she does.  I identify so strongly with what she says in that scene but I’m not just going to say “okay”.  It doesn’t work.  I think that there is more.  That it’s alright to not just say “okay”, even when other people don’t understand why and think that you’re crazy and that you have love and a good history and a good connection and therefore are throwing it all away for nothing.

It’s not nothing though.  It’s everything.  As much as it is amazing, incredible, beautiful, wonderful to have that relationship, I don’t want it unless it’s for the right reasons.  Why stay in something or get into something if you have serious reservations or doubts about things?  When Clem says “okay” after explaining that she gets bored etc, THAT is what I am trying to avoid.  I want to know why and to explore it, not just throw myself into something because it appears beautiful and exciting.   It could also be devastating and it’s more likely to be beautiful if I’m going into it with more knowledge and therefore more power, not letting it consume me but instead fully, consciously experiencing it. Of course you should take risks. There is nothing wrong with taking a risk and going for it and seeing what happens. But when you can already see what will happen, or at least what will probably happen, based on experience and The Past and your own behaviours, why do it?

All this has made me realise that I am not alone.  I am alone in the sense that I am without a partner, a partner-in-crime, a lover, a romantic soulmate. But I’m human, and human beings and our needs are freaking text book – like Elizabeth Gilbert, like my serial monogamist friends, like everyone on the telly who jumps from relationship to relationship or has an affair or stays with someone because they’re too scared of being by themselves. I might have made a decision that isn’t that common and that goes against the grain, but I am not alone in the way that I feel, and that is a vaguely comforting thought.