The Spiral

Is anything ever really over?

Is there ever a hard line? The closer you look, the blurrier it gets.

I’ve always seen in far too many shades of grey for my own good. Clarity is not a natural by-product of my thinking. But there are times in my life I look back on, with the benefit of distance, and see that they have been completed. They are no longer swirling around me, impacting my existence. They are done. They didn’t come back from the dead, and there is zero risk that they ever will. They were, and, now, they are not.

Other things, well…we go round and round the carousel, and sometimes we forget how it looked from over here, until here we are again and, oh yes, just like last time. But different. But still.

It’s not clean, and it’s not easy, and if you don’t laugh you might cry. When will it be over? Maybe it’s just the kind of thing that never ends.

The Undelivered Letter

A few months ago I did a thing I had vowed never to do. I sent a letter to someone I had promised myself I wouldn’t contact again. I had known for a long time that I was depriving myself of resolution by not attempting contact, but I had been prioritising avoiding the discomfort I perceived I may cause them by reaching out. My world would not let it go, and so I relented, changed my priorities, and wrote the damn letter.

If you’d like an interesting exercise, write someone you love a letter telling them all the beautiful things you’d like to tell them, and then read it back to yourself as if you had received it. If you want to make the whole thing a lot more uncomfortable for yourself, write them a letter that you actually send, keep yourself a copy, and read that back as if you had received it. Compare and contrast. Because those two letters, I’m fairly confident, are going to be different letters.

Though I hadn’t kept a copy, my letter in this instance was returned to sender, and so I had the very literal experience of receiving it. I hid it for a couple of months, unwilling to look at it. But my world would not let it go, so eventually I relented and opened the fucker up.

I had actually done the first part of the above exercise at some point fairly recently because a guy on YouTube told me to. I’d written them an unreserved, matter-of-fact love letter, which was a fine but hardly revelatory experience to read back, given the facts I had already written them countless unsent letters over the years, and I’d also very deliberately worked on using my experienced love for them to inform my newly constructed love for me.

The Undelivered Letter, though, that, as they say, hit different. It was different. It was well constructed, it was warm, it was light, it was funny. It was self-aware. But it was also dripping with deference and apology. And, as I now have self-esteem to speak of, I found that particularly off-putting. As a person who loves me, I didn’t understand why I was so sorry to confess my love. Why was I apologising for taking up space, when I was there simply to wish me only good things? Sure, I was teasing myself about it, but why was I throwing myself at my feet? Why did I think I was so unworthy of my time and attention? The whole vibe fatigued me.

And that’s when I understood why this has been haunting me for so long. I lost a part of myself when I fell in love with this person, because I was so ashamed to fall in love with them. More accurately, I was ashamed of the part of me that couldn’t be without them once I had. The part of me that was desperate for them to reciprocate my love, and thus acted in desperation when they turned their back on me. I disowned that part of myself for many years, and I didn’t recognise it again until I read that fucking letter.

That was the resolution I needed. I needed to accept that part of me back, even though it was offputting. That part of me still craved my love.

This was a saga I had accepted would never be over for me, despite never being anything else either. So I was reluctant to believe that an Undelivered Letter could hold within it The Answer. But that point of focus that I couldn’t disengage myself from has dissolved. I simply don’t look there anymore. I can look there, but there’s nothing in particular to see anymore. My world has let it go. I have let it go.

We hold onto things for a reason. Often not the reason we think. Trying to let go through force of will may be ill-advised, but that doesn’t mean our fate is to keep holding on. Maybe we need to write a letter, or look in the mirror, or do the thing we’re afraid of doing, I don’t know. But I think our world tells us what needs to be done. I’m just particularly bad at yielding to its direction.

Crash

I think, to a lot of people, when it comes to romantic love, I seem detached, overly practical, bizarrely level-headed about it. I know my ex found it particularly abrasive how willing I was to dismiss the intense feelings I had for him. I love you, so what? And I get suspicious looks from family if I talk about what I’m looking for in a relationship, like they think I’m in denial about the importance of feelings in romantic unions.

Thing is, I’d be dead if I paid attention to my feelings the way other people seem to. It’s not that I’m detached from them; I am exquisitely attuned to the unadulterated thrill of them. If I acted accordingly, my life would be multi-vehicle collision at all times.

But I have wondered, in recent years, if I have been unwittingly shielding myself from them, because I haven’t had cause to feel much of anything in relation to romantic prospects for some time. I’ve been distinctly unswept by any notion that’s arisen.

There are many other places I can find an unadulterated thrill, so it hasn’t bothered me. My life has certainly not felt lacking. But I wonder if something broke the last time. The last time I risked a crash and it hit way too hard.

I don’t know. I’m not sold on the idea. But I’ll let the possibility sit there, in case it has something to teach me.

Happy Val Day, Sab

Some things stick with you, I guess.

Like that episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch where Harvey made her a Valentine’s card but he was so obsessed with it being symmetrical that he kept cutting it smaller and smaller, and in the end he could only fit on ‘Happy Val Day, Sab’, but then the knowledge that he liked symmetry became crucial in a test of Sabrina’s love that would decide his fate. Or something.

I thought about that episode when I was hitching a ride from a shady older lady who was scared to give me her real name so called herself Sabrina, and I thought about it today when considering the possibility of a Valentine’s Day post.

For a long time I had a story that I’d never received a Valentine’s card. That changed in 2017, courtesy of my son’s father. He even wrote me a poem inside. It was an excellent first Valentine’s Day card . It was small and simple – tasteful, even – and the poem was sweet, but suitably tongue in cheek, and admirably executed. It was a truly beautiful thing he did for me and, despite the torrent of sludge that followed between then and now, I still look back on it with pleasure, gratitude and a kind of quiet awe. I keep it in my box of memories, and I imagine I will keep it there for as long as I have a box of memories.

There was never a follow up though. And I don’t mind – it’s not a thing that troubles me, and it’s not a thing I hanker after. But it’s sobering, sometimes, to think, on the one hand, how eager I am to just fucking pour out love onto somebody else in every way I can imagine and, on the other, how easily fucking pleased I am with the smallest of affectionate gestures. How little it takes for my mind to be blown.

It honestly probably scares me more than anything else to imagine someone giving me the kind of love that I want to give to someone else. Not because I don’t want it. Not because I think I don’t deserve it. Rather because it is so precisely, exactly, exquisitely what I do want and deserve that it would catapult me into some other plane of existence that I can’t fully comprehend.

I have earned a person who wants to pour love onto me. And I have earned a person who values the love I want to pour onto them. Not that you should have to earn that, but I fucking have anyway. I have earned a new plane of existence. And I do want to go there, scary though it may be. But I wonder…if I’m still scared of it, are they too? Is the person I am theoretically seeking to exchange with mirroring my apprehension? And, if so, where do I go from here, to get to there?

Wordgame: Anselm

I’m not the type of person who can walk into an major art gallery and name all the artists. I appreciate art. I have, to a very limited extent, studied art. But I’ve never been very pro-active about the whos and whats and wheres.

Anselm Kiefer, though, left an impression.

I saw a piece by Anselm Kiefer on a school trip to London and I was awestruck. I couldn’t articulate why, exactly. I just was. In love, and in awe, and in pain. I didn’t know anything about the artist, or have any clue of what the piece was, but it didn’t matter. He had me. And follow-up research confirmed my bias. But I didn’t honour the connection; I left it at that.

Ten years later, in Forth Worth, Texas, I entered the Modern Art Museum, and as soon as I rounded the first bend, my feet glided, hastily and of their own volition, across the gallery floor, toward a large canvas on the opposite wall. Anselm Kiefer, my entire body whispered with reverence. I’m gonna feel really fucking stupid if it isn’t, just a tiny little part of my brain warned with trepidation.

It was.

And the date I had left standing at the other end of the gallery, with no explanation, was enamoured with the display.

Do I think that might have been why, the next day, as I was heading to catch my train, he asked me to stay with him, despite the fact we’d met only three days ago? And do I think that might have been why, for months afterwards, he sent me messages to tell me of his plans to improve himself and his life, in what seemed like a desperate attempt to win me over? Well, yeah, actually.

If humans can project emotion – and they can – what I was projecting in that moment was profound. Vibrant, intense, ecstatic, pure. It was beyond me as much as it was within me. And if he caught it, well, that would be it. It’s the kind of thing you would chase.