Rejection and loss.

The imbalances of therapy are highlighted so starkly by the advent of a break; the imbalance of meaning, the imbalance of feeling(s). I don’t mean as much to her as she does to me, and so I feel as though her absence leaves a crater in my heart, a huge, shuddering loss, whereas in contrast I probably just ebb away and don’t cause any negative feeling, any real difference. Why should I? In the darkest moments it feels as though I’ll die, like I’m suddenly in an atmosphere devoid of oxygen, knowing that she’s not there, knowing that it will be a while until I see her, and having to cope with that realisation. The problem is that it doesn’t feel temporary in those moments, it just feels real. Like that’s all there is and all there ever will be, a crushing absence, and no amount of arguing with myself will do any good because I can’t feel the brevity of the situation. Those moments are in-my-bones moments; it doesn’t even cut to the bone, it goes deeper than that, like some sort of emotional osteoporosis. I’m crumbling and nothing can stop it.

I know that she doesn’t feel the same, that the lack of me for ten days will be a pinprick in comparison, if at all. And that’s the hardest thing about therapy, really, that imbalance. It’s fine usually (or not, depending on where you are in it) when you can coast, you can get through the days without them being too painful. But then a break rears its ugly, monstrous head and reminds you that even if you’re not nothing, you’re not really something, either; not who you want to be, not what you want to mean. A blob in a sea of other blobs, I think I put it once. (How eloquent.) Whereas that tiny part of me – not the rational part, or the logical – wants only two blobs to exist, and protests strongly against the fact that there aren’t only two, and hates that there are many. And most of the time it’s fine, but then there are the times I can’t breathe for feeling so abandoned and alone, like now. Like when I realise (for the millionth time, but it never really hurts any less) that I’m not special, not in the way that I want to be, and it doesn’t matter how many other amazing people or how much love there is surrounding me: I don’t have what I didn’t have, what I needed, and I never will.

And even though I can have something close to it, it can never happen in reality, because as much as it’s real it’s also not. It can’t be because it’s a construction; one with real people and feelings, but still constructed. Fabricated. In vitro, I always remember her saying that. Like we are creating and acting things out, they’re real, but an experiment – a test tube of emotions and reactions and feelings, two real people in an artificial environment, an artificial situation in which neither of us exist as our entire selves. She is not entirely measured and calm and non-reactive on the outside; I know this, because sometimes she slips, because she’s human and nobody is like that. And I am not an entirely smashed, broken mess, either overcome with tears or recoiled inside myself with fear and shame, locked so far away that I almost don’t exist anymore. I mean, sometimes I am. But that is not all of me. I have lots more to me than what she sees, and she has lots more to her than I see, only of course she gets to see more of me than I do of her and *thunk* there’s the imbalance again.

This partly came about because it’s Christmas, of course, and I wanted to buy her a present. I want to. I really, really want to, I feel the need to, almost, not because I ‘need’ to do it, for her to like me or for it to mean something, as such, more just like…like the feeling of wanting to dance when certain songs are playing, or jumping up and down when I’m really happy, or running and skipping with elation when I see sheep in a field. Sticking my tongue out to catch the snow when it falls, doing silly interpretive dancing when I know my boyfriend’s watching and we’re listening to some music he loves, squealing and clapping my hands when I’m excited. It’s more of a reflex thing, something that kicks in – I need to do it because it’s what I do, not in an expectation way, but in a ME way. I give presents to people that I care about, people who occupy a part of me. I always have, it’s something that happens often, only in small ways, but it’s a token of affection, of thanks, of thought. It’s much better than getting gifts. You get to choose something for someone, something that you think they’ll love, and that’s it – sometimes the anticipation of watching them open it is part of it too, but the real fun, the real meaning is in the choosing and the giving.

Only what do you give someone that you don’t actually know and who will also probably reject whatever you offer them? You buy people presents because you see things and think of them; because you know them; because you have a sense of their preferences. Therapy is so weird because you feel like you know someone, except you don’t. I know pretty much nothing about her, save a few small facts that are completely useless. I don’t know what her favourite colour is, what music she likes, films, decor, hobbies, nothing – and I actually usually prefer it like that, but it’s unnerving in situations like this, because I want to give, I want to give thanks, gratitude, in the form of something and yet I’d have no idea what to get her, what to give. Because it’s not about that. I do know her, I know I do. How can I not? But the people in my life that are dear to me, that have great meaning, are usually the easiest to buy for because they’re on my mind and so I see something and think about them and buy it, job done. It happens with her too occasionally but there’s not that joy of thinking, “ooh, so-and-so will really love that” because I don’t know whether she’d love it, I just see something that reminds me of her, but I have no idea as to whether she’d actually like it. It’s a relationship that’s like no other and it’s fine most of the time but times like this it makes me go slightly crazy in a multitude of different ways. I want to say thank you with a gift because it feels right but I can’t because 1) I don’t know what she likes and 2) she won’t accept it anyway. I mean, she might, but I doubt it. And it would feel weird anyhow. There’s enough rejection floating around as it is, I really don’t need any more. I can’t be vulnerable enough to expose myself to more rejection when it feels like I’m swimming in it.

Breaks always feel like rejection on some level even if I don’t realise it. We discussed the break in our last session and I termed it a “planned rejection”, because it is. It’s a rejection that I’m gearing up for and yes she deserves a break but damn it. I don’t want her to have one. I had a dream the other night where she basically told me that when I get too close to her she feels uncomfortable, and I guess on some level that’s what I’m feeling now. That she is getting away from me because I am too much for her. And it hurts even though it’s not personal because it’s tapping into all those other times I’ve been let down, left, abandoned, rejected, and it’s excruciating and I’m running away from it. I’m feeling rejected for all sorts of reasons right now.

And it’s not just the rejection. Even though I’m having a really hard time, even though I hate therapy sometimes, I get so much out of it. And by it, I mean her. I get so much out of seeing her, even when I’m mad at her, even when I think I hate her, when I think it’s not worth it and she tricked me by not telling me how much it would suck…even then, even when I have period pain so severe that I’m devoid of colour and have to go in with a hot water bottle I still go in, I still make it in, because she makes it worth it. Even when I haven’t left the house for days and have to fork out for a taxi because I’m too scared to properly leave the house, I do it, because of the value that therapy has. That she has. She always makes it worth it and I won’t have that and I feel bereft, even though I know it’s for a comparatively short time.

I always get something out of seeing her and to not see her means that I will be without her, that I will be without that feeling. And yes, she gets paid (not enough, again, but that’s a WHOLE other issue) but that’s another imbalance that I feel strongly and I want to give her something because her absence, her “planned rejection” of me makes me realise how much I am in receipt of and I want to say, my god, thank you for putting up with me when I’m vile, thank you for making me think about things differently, thank you for letting me hate you and for letting me be angry with you and for laughing with me and making things bearable when they are sometimes so agonising that I feel like I’ll implode. Thank you for offering me your time during your break, when you don’t have to but you are anyway because you realise how hard it will be for me, because of how hard it was, and thank you for making an effort to show me that you care, because I need so much to know that you do. Thank you for not being perfect, for letting me realise that there is no perfect even if it makes me feel like the bottom has fallen out of my world. Thank you for being ‘good enough’, even when I can’t see it, and thank you for not changing or reacting even when I don’t feel you’re good enough and clearly and viciously let you know it, even if it frustrates me to the fucking moon and back when you sit there all unrelenting, unmoveable, almost stony. A stone with warmth. A warm pebble from the beach, in my palm, heat radiating out, spreading slowly to create a glow. That’s exactly how my song, ‘our’ song, used to make me feel, it’s the best representation of it I can think of, that slow permeation. And I felt like that because it reminded me of you, reminded me of the feeling I get when I’m safe and held, and remembering that makes me feel warm even now, and maybe it will be OK after all.

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The darkness.

No, not the band. It’s 2:05 (am) and I am sitting here writing because I don’t know what else to do. I guess I could call The Samaritans but I don’t want to kill myself, I just don’t know how to carry on living like this. I don’t know how to escape this. I really want someone to just sit with me and tell me it will all be OK but it’s not going to be because it wasn’t OK and that’s why I’m here now, writing instead of sleeping.

I have an exam tomorrow (today) and I spent all evening practicing and feeling fine with it. It’s practical so there are steps to follow, I followed all of them well, I know what I’m doing. But as soon as my head hit the pillow, thoughts started pelting me with increasing ferocity. Do you put the sterile field under the arm before or after you take the dressing off? Stupid things like that. And so it goes, on and on, until it feels like I’m spinning away and there’s no chance of coming back. I tried to come back, I tried really hard, I tried to breathe, to concentrate on my breathing and to slow myself down but it didn’t work and all I can feel is darkness. I feel like I’m in a black hole and I don’t know how to get out. I keep frantically bouncing back from, “All this bad stuff happened…it’s really really bad. It’s not normal to live every single day in fear thinking that you’re going to die. Feeling that you have to save the world otherwise bad things will happen” to “Stop being such a fucking drama queen. Plenty of people had much worse happen, so what that this happened. Maybe it didn’t even happen how you remember it because everyone else is fine. It’s not a big deal. Stop making it a big deal”. It’s like a giant game of ping pong and I am the ball and I feel dizzy and disoriented and really, really sick.

Part of the reason that I feel sick is that I drank far too much alcohol last night. What was supposed to be a sedate night in with friends ended up being a raucous night in with friends…and it was one of the best nights I’ve ever had, until I started to realise that I had gone way, waaaaay too far with the drinking. I haven’t been that sick for a long time. I was sick for hours and felt so bad. I am not a good drinker at the best of times but last night was abysmal and I feel as though my stomach has gone through a mangle.

There is so much darkness though and obviously this hasn’t helped it. And the problem is that it always comes on stronger at night. When it’s dark. When there are no distractions, when there’s no escape. Sleep would be an escape I guess but I can’t sleep when it’s like this. When it’s black inside and out. Even earlier when I was trying to sleep but couldn’t because I was vomiting too often, I ended up being inside some sort of living nightmare. It was reminiscent of the time I had my gallbladder out and was on so much morphine that I would get stuck in this hallucinatory loop. I would have certain songs in my head and I couldn’t escape them. Lines or thoughts that would be stuck in my head going round and round like I was a washing machine. The same thing happened today and I just floated with all this bad stuff. I had a line from Human by Goldfrapp in my head, the same chillingly beautiful album that Utopia is on, just one line repeating itself over and over. I think I loved you more than me. It says so much in so few words.

Everything feels bad. It feels unsafe, so unsafe, and I feel like I can’t control it even though I’m trying. That’s why I’m writing it down, with the hope that I will be able to get at least a few hours of sleep and not fail my exam. If I fail I will deal with it but I don’t want to fail and I don’t deserve to. I also don’t know how I am supposed to carry on right now, with my course, with working, with anything. The darkness is enveloping me and I don’t know how to escape it, or even if I should.

The problem is that it comes on so strong and so concentrated, trying to kill me. So I try to fight back but that’s killing me too. I don’t know what to do for the best, I don’t know how to handle this, because I don’t know what it is. How stupid. I feel sick all the time, I have done even before I drank. Part of me wonders whether that’s why I got so drunk, it was completely unintentional but maybe a part of me wanted to just try and get every bit of bad out. Except of course that’s not going to happen. I feel rotten inside and that isn’t going to go away. It’s just not. Ever since Friday, fucking Friday the 13th, with all that happened, I just can’t escape this feeling. I keep trying to stop myself from feeling it but I can’t, really. I have to keep trying though because when I don’t I feel crazy, I feel properly crazy. It feels like too much to carry so I have to try and shove it off again. What if it devours me? What then? I can feel it devouring me. I don’t know how to cope. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to acknowledge what is happening, what has happened, without either going crazy or feeling like I am just a stupid fucking lying dickhead who is making it all up for attention. I don’t know how to feel when sometimes it feels so real that I can’t breathe, and other times it feels like a dream, something that I conjured up. I don’t know how to stop denying it because when I stop denying it I feel like I am going to die and then I have to deny it some more because that’s the only way I can cope. And then I don’t know what’s real and what’s not.

I feel so broken. I feel like I will never be whole, like I can never be loveable. I have people who love me but I think they’re stupid. I think they’re stupid because they obviously don’t know what they are loving. I feel monstrous and yet so small. I just want to be taken away somewhere and for it all to be fine and that can’t happen and I feel wild when that realisation hits, like this is just it, I have to get on with it like it is now. This is it. This is me. There is nothing that I can do, there is nothing that anyone can do because it’s been done and I can’t change it. I want to change it and I want it not to be real and despite trying really hard to make it not be real it’s not working anymore and that’s all my fault too. Everything that was protecting me is eroding, and I’m the one that’s eroding it, I’m the one that’s making this happen. I feel like I’m going mad, properly mad, I feel like I’m living a nightmare and I want to wake up but I can’t because this is my life. I can’t wake up from it because I’m awake. This is it. Maybe that’s why I am trying (unconsciously) to sabotage everything good in my life right now, because that would be a distraction, it would put up more barriers to replace the ones that are crumbling, to erect some temporary walls to replace the ones that I’ve sledgehammered. How the fuck do I stop myself doing that though? I feel like I am in a total lose/lose situation, I lose either way but one way jeopardises everything that I love – my relationship, my career, my life. Maybe that’s better though. That would be a temporary darkness, instead of the endless black that lies beneath it, the one that’s spilling out and threatening to engulf everything. I can cope with chaos. I know chaos. I know the darkness too, but the darkness is enormous and too big to defeat, it’s a tsunami of everything, whereas chaos is sort of splintered and vaguely manageable.

It reminds me of Threads, so of course that’s why I had the urge to watch it last week, of course, it all makes sense now. I watched it on Friday night too, drawn to it, like I’m surrounded by Dementors trying to suck out my soul. It’s falling into place now, why I am back there, obsessing and connecting with dark stuff, the darkest. Because I embody dark, and so does Threads. You see everyone frantically trying to prepare for a nuclear attack, piling up duvets and furniture to try and protect themselves from a blast that will eventually kill them whatever happens, that will annihilate everything they know and love, that will change their worlds forever. It’s quite sweet, really. That’s why it’s so chilling to watch. You can see the futility in the chaos, but they can’t. It’s all just a distraction, really, isn’t it? To distract you from the reality, whether that reality is actually happening or just imagined, predicted. It’s an escape, a useless one, but an escape nonetheless. I’m escaping through chaos, like I’ve always done, but this time it’s not working and so I feel…I don’t know what I feel. I guess I feel like I’m dying. And I’m really scared because I don’t know what that actually means.

Song for today: Utopia by Goldfrapp.

I was on the bus to uni earlier after my therapy session and the weight of my childhood (well, adolescence really) hit me like a sledgehammer. Oh my god. It was not OK. Not at all. It was really, really not OK. I looked around frantically for somebody to say it out loud to, but there was nobody, and even if there had been, they wouldn’t have been able to reassure me. It wasn’t OK. It wasn’t OK. It was barbaric.

It was listening to Goldfrapp’s Utopia that did it. Yet another song that I have loved and known for many years, a creepy, but beautiful song, from a beautiful and creepy album. The lyrics went through me like bullets, mirroring what we were talking about at the end of my session today. “I wasn’t allowed to exist”, I said. She asked what that meant to me. I thought about it for a bit. It was about existing for my parents, specifically my dad, and not being allowed to be my own person, not being allowed to grow. I knew this before I listened to the song today. Of course I knew it, I’ve talked about it before, I’ve written about it before. I was reading about my childhood last night though, when I was looking back through old journals, and found all this stuff that I’d written when I’d realised that my dad was basically a narcissist/sociopath/whateveryouwanttocallit. And then the lyrics all suddenly became real (italics are mine):

It’s a strange day
No colours or shapes
No sound in my head
I forget who I am 

When I’m with you 
There’s no reason 
There’s no sense 

I’m not supposed to feel 
I forget who I am 
I forget 

Fascist baby
Utopia, utopia

My dog needs new ears
Make his eyes see forever
Make him live like me
Again and again

Fascist baby
Utopia, utopia

I’m wired to the world 
That’s how I know everything 
I’m super brain 
That’s how they made me

Fascist baby
Utopia, utopia

The bit in bold hit me the hardest. I genuinely thought I was going to throw up. The way she sings it, so detached, almost murmuring the words. It all made sense, so much sense, like waking up with your contact lenses in and being able to see instead of everything being a blur. It explains the feeling of being attuned to other people’s emotions and their actions so clearly, being trained or moulded to be that way, when it wasn’t my role. I was wired to the world, and in lots of ways I still am. I wasn’t wired to myself though, because I didn’t really have a self to be wired to. I can tell you how other people are feeling, what they are thinking (sometimes), I’m intuitive and perceptive and sometimes it’s weird and it freaks people out. My own emotions and actions are often a mystery to me. We were talking about connection today as well and it is just slotting together perfectly. And the iciness of the song. It’s beautiful and poised and almost perfect in its sound. But there is no real soul to it. There is no compassion or warmth; any warmth is an illusion, a veil. It’s cold, like an icicle.

And “super brain”. An extract from 2007:

Well, you know, when you’re 13, sleep deprived and being made to keep a million and one ‘secrets’ that change every day, sometimes you cock up. [in reference to my dad semi-kidnapping me and threatening to kill me when I was 14, although apparently I might have been 13 judging by this. Who knows.]

I was expected to be on my toes all the time, alert, like a meerkat waiting to be swooped down upon by an bird of prey. I was expected to remember everything so that I didn’t mess up. School wasn’t a priority, other people weren’t a priority, I wasn’t a priority. Keeping ‘secrets’ was. They weren’t secrets as such, more that one parent would tell me one thing that I’d have to remember not to tell the other one and vice versa… And I was also having to explicitly tell them certain things too, so it was a constant battle to remember what I was supposed to say and what I wasn’t, and of course that changed all the time, sometimes completely reversing, so it became my life. The terror that came with feeling like I might mess up when questions were asked tarnished my entire existence, because it’s one thing having to memorise what to say and what not to say, but another thing completely to have to constantly improvise when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing. It took all my energy. When I inevitably did mess up, threats and/or punishments occurred, like the one above, so my safety and the safety of my family were all down to whether I made a mistake or not and therefore constantly in jeopardy. No wonder my first reaction to messing up is wanting/needing to kill myself or harm myself, as melodramatic as that sounds. It wasn’t melodramatic at the time. Every act of ‘wrongdoing’, every ‘mistake’ that I made carried such mammoth penalties that my brain is catapulted back there, even now, only I’m not there anymore so it feels out of proportion. It sometimes felt out of proportion even then, because of course small things would happen, and I couldn’t distinguish between what was big and what was small, what could be let go of and what would be a grave error. That’s why there is still terror and trepidation rather than vague worry about everything from pissing off a friend to missing an exam. It’s why my initial gut feeling is that the world is ending rather than that things are momentarily hard but there is a solution to the problem. There were never any solutions in the past, there were only severe and long-lasting punishments. In the here and now, unknown consequences carry so much weight from previous experiences that they are like an asteroid crashing into the earth – the gut instinct based on many, many past experiences is that the consequences will be catastrophic and that I am irredeemable, that what I have done is so terrible and that it is all my fault with no hope of any negotiation.

And that fits well into the “fascist baby” line. From an online dictionary:

fas·cism n.

1. often Fascism

a. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.

2Oppressive, dictatorial control.

I mean, I knew that. I know what fascism means, what it is. But seeing it in black and white…I feel sick. I feel so sick and I can’t do anything. It’s in the past and I can’t change it. It’s already happened, it’s been and gone, done and dusted. But I’m one step closer to feeling it rather than just knowing it. And I don’t know how to cope with it, how do you cope with it? How do you cope with knowing that your life wasn’t your own, that you had no control, or at least that the control that you felt you had, and exercised, almost always ended up with you being severely punished, and being riddled with anxiety about the times that you weren’t? Just for trying to be yourself, for trying to be normal. It’s happened and I can’t get it back. It’s gone forever, a wasted childhood and adolescence, wasted on trying to fulfil the needs of others instead of my own, trying to and failing, being forced to do so because if I didn’t, the rebellion wasn’t worth the punishment. I feel like I was held hostage for years and that I am only beginning to feel it. I always understood Stockholm Syndrome, it’s always been something that I identified with. It sort of felt stupid, though. Now it doesn’t. And I don’t know whether it is stupid or not, whether I’m just making a mountain out of a molehill. It can’t have been that bad for so long. Can it?

I wanted to throw up again when I thought about how hidden it all was, or how hidden it tried to be. Tried to be because it wasn’t really hidden, was it? Every missed day of school, every swipe of a blade across my skin, every overdose, every letter to my teachers, every failed assignment, every time I ran away from home, every time I wrote fucked up stories at school or got taken aside in class for zoning out, or put on report…it was too big to be hidden, it was seeping out through the cracks and in my own way I was trying to get it seen. When it was seen it was still largely ignored, though, or it was misunderstood. Of course it was misunderstood. How can you understand something that is so carefully constructed to appear like nothing? Something so sinister but cleverly hidden so that it appears normal? Even I didn’t understand it and then I thought I was going mad. That it was my fault. Everyone else was OK, I was the only one who was crazy after all. This image popped into my head:

Image

My mum even had it framed in her room when we were growing up (well my room really – see, fucked up boundaries again). It stared at me every day, constant propaganda, like Khomeini’s picture on walls all around Tehran; it wasn’t ‘just’ a picture, it was a reminder of how to act, how to be. Remembering it made me want to vomit. Not the image itself as such, more the message. I had a dream the other night that I can’t remember, only the last bit which was a family in a car saying that they didn’t talk about things, that people shouldn’t know. It all seeps into my dreams now instead, I have crazy dreams night after night that mostly evaporate when I wake up, I can’t remember what’s happened but I know that it was bad so I’m exhausted but can’t analyse what happened or take it to therapy. My horrible adolescence keeps tainting my adulthood in so many ways and I am exhausted with having to deal with this, with uncovering more worms every time another rock is overturned in – say it with me! – FUCKING THERAPY.

I was talking the other day in session about how I’ve been fascinated and obsessed with so many macabre things since a young age. The plague. Nuclear war. The Titanic. Concentration camps. And all those things, what do they have in common? They’re terrifying, and you can’t escape them. And then I read this last night, again from 2007:

I’ve been having really bad dreams again too, so we discussed it and she [old therapist] said writing them out can help, just to get it all out.  I’ve done that but still don’t feel great about it, because writing it down almost makes it look worse.  I couldn’t even tell her the worst of it, I just burst into tears because it was all so sick.  But I’m going to burn them, and let them go.  I don’t want them.  So hopefully that will help, and be cathartic.  Dissecting the dreams, though, helped me to realise that at the core of them all is the feeling of being trapped, of not being able or finding it hard to get out of a situation, which mirrored my life back then. 

It’s interesting reading that back. I remember the experience of that therapy being so powerful, it literally changed my life and almost overnight. It obviously brought up a lot of stuff though, I think that was the time that I dreamt about being disembowelled. Watching it from the perspective of being me, lying down and looking at it happening. Horrific.

I want to run away and I can’t. I want this to be over with and it isn’t. I feel like it’s only just starting and I’m so scared of what’s coming, because it feels like something is, it feels like the beginning of Threads [please DO NOT WATCH if you’re easily traumatised, it’s easily one of the most horrible things I – and most people who’ve watched it – have seen because it feels so real and is unequivocally grim. However, it is also very, very good. I actually watched a bit of it the other day. I felt compelled to, and I only stopped when my boyfriend looked at me with concern and said, “Are you sure you should be watching this?”, because he had a point]. It feels like when I used to read voraciously about those horrible things when I was younger, about being taken into gas chambers or knowing a ship is sinking or watching a mushroom cloud slowly rising. We talked about it being a sort of comfort, being obsessed with those things. Because in a way it was comforting, reading about horrific things that other people couldn’t escape from, although of course it was hugely depressing. It was also, on some level, thrilling and exciting because I sort of understood it and therefore must have felt somewhat understood as well. It’s like my darkness was reflected in history, in possible future history, and that brought about some level of peace, in addition to being terrifying and so desperately sad. I feel ashamed writing that because it makes me sound like some sort of horrible psychopath, although I probably wouldn’t be feeling any sense of sadness or connection to the victims if I was. It’s probably also why I like dystopian fiction so much, because I lived it – other worlds were magnified and distorted, of course, but I understood it – surveillance, censorship, misogyny and disproportionate punishment were central themes, like my life was the lovechild of The Handmaid’s Tale and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

This is probably one of the darkest thing I’ve written, and now it doesn’t feel real anymore and I feel as though I must have just been dreaming it all. Exaggerating at the very least. So here is the song. A live version because I love them live, and she looks beautiful here and the most normal I’ve ever seen her on stage; not a horse tail or jumpsuit in sight.