The Next Source

My friends organised a virtual murder mystery party the other night, and I was assigned a flamboyant celebrity character to embody for the night. And, not long into the night, I thought, yes, I’ve missed this.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about certain aspects of myself that I have disowned over the years. One of which being my attention-seeking, overtly unconventional, indulgently outrageous aspect. It used to be that I couldn’t help being that way, but being that way brought me so much pain, in the form of shame and self-hatred, that I eventually quashed it. I made myself less. I made myself smaller. I made myself easier to tolerate. It’s such a common fucking story that it’s hardly worth telling.

I thought the attention-seeking and the outlandishness were the wrong part. I thought the shame and self-hatred were caused by them. So I toned down the former and, indeed, the latter subsided.

In the subsequent years, I began to understand it was the shame and self-hatred that were, in fact, the problem, and over time I worked on them and, one way and another, disentangled myself from their grasp.

But, even though I still considered the playful rebel an intrinsic part of my identity, I couldn’t even admit to myself the extent to which I had diminished it. If I have ever fully embraced that side of myself, it could only have been in early childhood, because as far back as I remember, the reckless abandon, exaltation and satisfaction of its expression were always followed by excruciating self-consciousness and remorse, that prematurely cut them dead.

I believed, very potently, that it made me a bad person to indulge my desires so openly. And I also thought that maybe it shouldn’t. And I also didn’t want other people to think that I believed that it made me a bad person. I wanted them to believe that I didn’t care. I wanted to believe that I didn’t care. But I cared with such exquisite clarity that it gradually immobilised me.

I have been trying to unfuck myself for such a long time. My entire life’s endeavour has been trying to unfuck myself. And it’s funny, really, how the source of the fuck has been so very elusive all these years. I’ve tiptoed down so many shady back-alleys and climbed down so many winding ravines, tirelessly searching for the source of the fuck. There is always another source of the fuck. Like a desert mirage, the source of the fuck is always just out of reach.

To locate the next source of the fuck, I must first embrace my brashest, bluntest, boldest tendencies. I have been actively avoiding this my entire adult life. It’s been a limit I’ve been unwilling to cross, even though I’ve known I needed to. Because I don’t fucking want to. And I really fucking want to. And it’s all just very confusing.

Impossible possibilities

One day, in the autumn of 2017, I was sitting in the cafe of the local library with my boyfriend and our few month old son. My coffee was too hot, we didn’t have much to say to each other, and I was scrolling through Facebook.

The world around me went quiet as I lighted upon a post from someone I’d stayed with in Texas, back in another life. I went still and silent for long enough that my boyfriend asked me what was up.

“Adam died.” I said, quietly confused and surprised by the words coming out of my mouth.

“Who’s Adam?”

Who’s Adam? Who is Adam? Who is Adam to me? Who am I to Adam? How do I categorise Adam? How do I answer this truthfully? How do I answer this accurately?

“You know, the guy I was…kind of…seeing for a bit in Austin.” I came up with.

“Well you weren’t really seeing him, were you?” he scoffed with a note of condescension and maybe defensiveness. He was right, though. I was not seeing him. That wasn’t remotely the right word. In reality I had probably spent less than a week staying with Adam and his housemates. Was I supposed to say the guy I had a fling with? The fucking holiday romance? Was I supposed to bypass that entirely and just say one of the people I stayed with? Someone I used to know? That all felt ridiculous. I needed something to portray the level of intimacy we’d shared; the multi-layered nature of our connection; the importance of our encounters on the trajectory of my life. And, honestly, in that moment, now that he was gone, I needed to feel like I had, in some way, at some time, mattered to him as much as he mattered to me. There wasn’t an adequate explanation for who Adam was.

Adam was the person I stayed up watching documentaries with until 5am the first night we met. Who I wordlessly exchanged dirty foot massages with long past 2am the night after that. Whose bedroom felt like the safest place I’d ever been. Who surprised, disarmed and utterly baffled me with the understated sincerity of his kindness toward me. Who shone a light on the absurd depths of my sense of unworthiness, and simultaneously made me feel worthy by association. Who pushed my boundaries in really uncomfortable, wholesome ways, with such expert grace and gentleness that the experience was enchanting. Who showed me what love could really be like, even though we were both in love with other people at the time. Adam was probably the best person I’d ever met. Adam was the person I most wanted to be like.

Over the next few days I quietly pondered how the news impacted my life in no tangible way whatsoever, yet gently rocked me at my core. How, if I ever returned to Austin, it would now be distinctly lacking. How there was no longer any place in the world I could go to find him. How his absence made the world worse, not just for me, but for so many people who knew and loved him. How, of all the people I knew, in a very objective sense, he was very close to the top of the list of people I would least want to die. How it didn’t change any of the memories I’d made with him. How, in many ways, he didn’t feel any more gone to me than he had been for the past two years, and that had never really bothered me. How, actually, I felt free to feel closer to him now. How, actually, he didn’t feel gone at all.

I also battled with my ‘right’ to grieve for him. And, even moreso, my ‘right’ to feel close to him. My ‘right’ to talk to the air around me as if he was there. My ‘right’ to feel guided by his non-corporeal energy.

And then I wandered through thoughts of destiny and fate. What if I hadn’t left Austin? What if I’d gone back? We wouldn’t have had a successful long term relationship, I was pretty sure of that, but what if I could have altered events just enough that he wouldn’t end up on that road in that car at the exact moment a drunk driver came along? Is that how much of a knife-edge we all live on? Or did all roads lead there for him?

Adam was an extraordinary human and, for that, he was blessed with the love and admiration of many people. To me, he was a full-spectral oasis of radiance in a desolate wasteland of disconnection and missed opportunity. To him, I have no doubt, I was just another person he chose to share some time with. It didn’t mean I didn’t matter to him, but the relative importance of me to his full, open-hearted life could never match his impact on my own.

For years now, I’ve sat with that understanding, and I’ve continued to feel close to him, and guided by him, and I’ve made sure to consciously allow that for myself despite the ever-creeping guilt when I think about the people who really lost him.

And he’s made my life better. Sometimes he plain made it bearable. Remembering him, and imagining him with me, imagining what he might say to me, drew me forward through a lot of tumult. And I doubt I would have given myself permission to do that if he’d been alive. And so the world’s loss has, in some ways, been my gain, which feels perverse. Then again, had he been alive, perhaps I could have heard what he’d actually say to me, and that would have been better. Perhaps this is just a story I tell myself to make it okay.

Last night, for the first time in a very long time, I felt drawn to find the video of a song he recorded the week I arrived in Austin. And, as I watched it, I sobbed. And I let myself feel true fucking brutal loss. Because I’d been there, with him, in that room, and he’d pulled that mattress down from the wall while I stood in the doorway. And he played me that song, and I was relieved to honestly say that I liked it. That was the version of him I knew. That was the version of him I touched. That was the version of him I kissed. That physical body, those exact human cells, immortalised in moving pixels. But he’s gone, and I miss him, and how can someone like that just be gone?

And, even more selfishly, I sobbed because I’m at a place in my life now where I’m so much more ready for a man like Adam to grace me with his presence. I couldn’t make the most of the time I had with him when I had it. If he were alive, at least I could fantasise about the possibility of reconnecting.

Maybe that was always the heart of it. I always knew what he was, and I knew I was on the way to it. And, regardless of what form it took, I wanted to be able to stand face to face with him when I got there. But he doesn’t have a face anymore. He’s not a man anymore. So I can’t.

Paper trail

I have a bunch of unpublished drafts sitting around here.

It’s not that I forgot about this place. It’s not that I didn’t want to write.

In part, I was concerned that I had more ‘important’ things to be doing, and spending my time on this every day would be detrimental.

In part, I had dammed myself up by withholding the post I wanted to write until it no longer felt viable.

In part, I was going through some things that meant my writing took on a tone that I didn’t necessarily want to broadcast.

Most of all, I became uncomfortable with the very notion that I had created this blog, in my own name, showing you so much of who I am, good and bad, if you only cared to look.

I worried it was incongruent with the career I might want for myself, or the goals I was pursuing. I worried it was going to come and bite me on the backside, one way or another, eventually.

I thought about hitting delete on the whole thing – a favourite trick of mine – but I resisted. I let it sit here until I could bear the fact of its existence again without shame clawing at my throat.

It has been tapping on my shoulder persistently for the past couple of weeks. So here I am.

The Doom-legume

I ate something with soy in at the weekend. Soy is my own personal doomfruit. I know it’s not a fruit, but I feel like if a foodstuff is going to be prefixed with ‘doom’, it’s going to have to be a fruit. Although, okay, I will grant you, there’s something quite charming about a doom-legume.

Between six and forty-eight hours post-doomfruit-consumption, I begin to notice the onset of a pervasive dread descending. The physical telltales normally show up sooner, but I prefer to write them off under other explanations if possible. The doom-dread, though, is definitive.

I have built an arsenal of many coping strategies by this point, so the doom-dread comes in waves, and sometimes I fool myself into thinking I’m managing it fine and maybe soy doesn’t have the same effect on me as it used to, or maybe I was wrong all along and, despite the very substantial body of evidence to the contrary, eating soy is actually something I can start doing more regularly.

And then I realise I’m lowkey panicking that I’m never gonna have any money and my life will continue to be nothing but a long-drawn-out trudge across a field of desolation and lack. And I think, hold on, that’s a bit extreme, things aren’t that hopeless. And then I remember that I have two grand in my current account right now, and all of my bills have been paid, and all of my needs are met, and I’m totally comfortable, and my savings and investments are growing, and there’s no reason whatsoever not to be sitting here with a shit eating grin on my face. And then I think, fucking doomfruit!

Tough love

I think I’m sliding into a new awareness of myself in relation to others. It’s too subtle to call a levelling up, but I’m hoping I’ve at least passed a checkpoint, because I don’t want to have to do these past few weeks over.

I’m in an awkward phase right now where I’m feeling the need to chase down the disharmony in my life. I’ve spent the last year or so cultivating peace, so this new strategy doesn’t appeal, but it’s either that or let myself stagnate. The growth is where the challenge is. And for me, right now, that is in my most difficult personal relationships. Personal relationships that I may prefer the luxury of writing off. Personal relationships it would be perfectly reasonable to encourage writing off.

It’s important to detach the idea of having them go the way I want them to, and having them teach me what I need them to. I regularly get stuck in the former because I resist the latter, which causes pain and makes me want to reconsider. But the only way out is through, and they are teaching me. And I’m starting to feel the effects.

Maybe I’m learning the hard way, but then that wouldn’t be anything new.