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.

My face, their shit.

I have a habit of giving my power away in the very moments when I should claim it.

No, it’s not a habit.

It’s a deeply embedded instinct for survival that, presumably, at some point, served me, but no longer makes any sense in my life.

I’m very clear with myself that I’m responsible for how I feel, not the external environment. When something is troubling me, my primary focus is on my own perception of it. That’s how I consistently endeavour to live my life, and it works well for me. I am good at being happy.

But I have a raging inflamed pain spot that blinds me to this reasoning in certain moments: When a certain someone close to me brings me all the bullshit they’ve accumulated in relation to me and slams it down on the table to win an argument, it seems I am compelled to just shove my face in it.

I try hard not to serve up my own bullshit in these kinds of interactions. The result of that is often incomplete, though the effort is always earnest. But why, oh why, oh why, oh why do I keep eating theirs? We both know it’s not food. What the fuck am I doing? This is not the correct response to the situation. They must be wondering as much as I am what on earth has possessed me to take this course of action.

If, instead, I could just lean back and say to myself “hmm, that’s an awful lot of bullshit for just one meal”, well, there are a lot of conversations that wouldn’t have been quite the ordeal I turned them into. If I could just keep my distance from the bullshit, I wouldn’t need them to stop serving it up. Obviously I’d be quite entitled to the preference. But their bullshit isn’t the problem. My face is.

Oh, wait, I see what I’m doing. I think if I eat it it’ll be gone. That’s part of the reason it’s so soul destroying. Because there’s always more where that came from. No matter how much clean-up I do, I can’t turn off their bullshit machine. In fact, all I’m doing is clearing space for more, and making myself sick in the process.

Gosh, this is so quintessential vintage Yve. What a perfectly preserved relic.

Well, here’s hoping that this absurd and offputting visual has triggered some kind of behavioural amelioration in me.

Textual constipation

Lying in bed one night the other week, an idea for a blog post hit me in a most inconvenient way. The kind of way that made it difficult not to get up and write it right then. But it was already about midnight and I didn’t want to fuck up my sleeping pattern even more, so I just stayed in bed, trying to keep my eyes closed. Every so often they’d spring open rebelliously, when another reason it was such a necessary post for me to write exploded through my synapses.

I didn’t write it then, and I haven’t written it since. It’s going to be a long one, it’s going to take some time, and it’s going to demand I pay attention to it and give myself to it fully. I have a couple of asignments already taking up that allotment of time and energy, so I’ve just been holding it ever since.

Is it a coincidence that my blog has become non-daily since that night?

Yes, I’ve been busy. And more than I’ve been busy I’ve been anxious about how much more busy I should be, which is a poor quality headspace to be in. But I think my decision to hold onto that idea until such a time as I can ‘do it justice‘ has made anything I write in between seem optional.

This is the first major blog hurdle of this iteration. I’m interested to see if I recover.

The price of bad tools

A couple of weeks ago, after years of thinking about it, I finally got a good microphone. I’d ordered it weeks before, when I realised I have both the surplus money and enough uses for it to call it an investment, and was waiting for it to come into stock.

By the time it arrived, I was busy with other things. It sat in its unopened package, and each time I passed it, I felt guilty for buying it and wondered if I should just send it back.

At long last, this weekend, I tested it out a little, and was deeply, viscerally satisfied by the fidelity. I’ve been using shit mics for a long time. I welcomed it into the family.

With some trepidation, I recorded myself singing a song. I was expecting to listen back with a mild cringe as it picked up all the flaws in my unconditioned voice, but instead I listened with a look of consternation.

I sounded good. And it was dawning on me that, if I’d bought this mic years ago, when I’d started thinking about it, I would have spent a lot more of that time singing. Because, if that’s what my neighbours hear, I don’t feel bad about it. Because that voice could do justice to the songs I’ve written. Because the recording sounded like what I hear when I sing, so I’m not delusional.

I have suffered from a supreme lack of confidence in my singing ability, which has hampered me in a multitude of ways since childhood. I finally thought I had reconciled myself by coming to the understanding that I’m an okay singer, and that’s good enough. Turns out, though, I could have had a better story.

I should have called that microphone an investment from the start. But I didn’t know better.

Chocolate chip entropy

I do best with a diet which excludes dairy, soya and oats. If I provide myself with that, other things pretty much fall into place. If I do not provide myself with that, all things tend toward entropy.

I think it was Brian Cox I once heard talking about how living organisms are essentially agents of entropy, catalysing the Universe’s descent, paradoxically, due to the necessity of staving off entropy within themselves. Maybe I should think about how I’m killing the Universe in my own minute way the next time I want to waste a week of my life on some chocolate chip cookies or something.

Because the annoying thing about me is that, even though I know very well by this point that there is a clear and meaningful difference between who I am when I’m eating the right things and who I am when I’m eating the wrong things, I still keep feeling the need to just…test it. Or, if something really fucks me off, it still seems like a good idea to bury my sorrows in some junk food that I conveniently didn’t check the label of.

That’s why I’ve been splashing around in the mud much more than I should have been these past few weeks. Things got emotional and I decided, despite all the well-worn tools and techniques available to me, that I would eat my feelings about once a week, and then spend the rest of the week regretting it not quite enough to stop me doing it all over again.

I’ve spent most of my life feeling pretty shitty, so it’s easy for me to forget what feeling good is like. But every time I get back on track I think why the fuck would I do that to myself? …and then I do.

In my defense, I think there’s a bit of a pendulum effect going on, and the swing is gradually decreasing. Getting better is a strange thing. Maybe this is just how I have to do it.