A time for scarring

You can't have a rainbow without a little rain

You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain

“There is a time for everything.”

I had lost count of the number of times this was said to me over the past year. It was the argument to end all arguments, the reason that was supposed to justify everything that had gone wrong: it just wasn’t the ‘time’ for it to be put right yet. On the one hand, I was inclined to believe that statement, but on the other hand, I had been raised to believe that nothing would happen unless we took the initiative to make it so.

And now here we are, a little over two weeks into what sometimes feels so surreal as to seem too good to be true. I had spent little more than the past year so deeply embedded in this hole of despair that I had begun to mold myself to it, and now that it’s time to come out of this hole, I find myself afraid, almost unwilling, to do it.

That’s the thing about cuts: some of them simply run too deep, and while the skin and scar tissue can grow over them, the damage is permanent and they never really heal. We desperately want to be able to forget the pain, but we’ve spent so much time behind that wall we built around ourselves that to come out from behind it seems too daunting, leaving ourselves feeling naked, overexposed.

My anger had become an antidote to my unhappiness, and it had reached a point where I didn’t know how not to be angry or unhappy. And every time I’m told to loosen up, let go of the past and be happy now, because it’s ‘the time’ to be happy, I realize just how difficult it is. I realize that I’m terrified of being happy because the last time I knew happiness was right before everything went to hell.

But maybe there is something to be said about there being a time for everything. There may have been a time for things to right themselves, and now may be the time to be happy again. So maybe, one day, the time will come for me to learn to let go of my anger, stop picking at the wounds and let them grow over on their own.

The flames of forgiveness

'Love' by Alexandr Milov, at Burning Man 2015

‘Love’ by Alexandr Milov, at Burning Man 2015

Alexandr Milov was the first Ukranian to receive a grant from Burning Man to create his art, and his piece was recognized as one of the most powerful from last year’s festival. Of his creation, aptly christened Love, Milov wrote: “It demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature. Their inner selves are executed in the form of transparent children, who are holding out their hands through the grating. As it’s getting dark (night falls) the children start to shine. This shining is a symbol of purity and sincerity that brings people together and gives a chance of making up when the dark time arrives.”

So when I came across it on social media a few days ago, it struck a chord deep within my being, because this is something I live through every single day.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve held the belief that forgiveness, like trust, is something that must be earned. If one is truly sorry for something, one would — or should — apologize, and then go about making right whatever they have done wrong. Then, and only then, can they be forgiven, and trusted again. But if no apology comes, how is forgiveness to follow? If their mistakes were not actually mistakes, but conscious choices, albeit bad ones, made intentionally to produce a desired outcome, why should they be sorry? And if they do apologize, only to repeat their transgressions, what is their apology worth?

Needless to say, I don’t remember ever forgiving anyone for anything.

For the last 13 months, my life has been a series of bad choices made in rapid succession. Every single decision made and subsequent action taken was a conscious one that resulted in more than one heart saved, and more than one heart broken. And every time a choice was made, the list of things I can’t forgive grew longer, to the point where I am now conditioned to prepare myself for the worst and expect history to keep repeating itself. My inability to trust fuels my refusal to forgive because I have never been given a reason to trust that wrongs will be righted and mistakes will be fixed.

Alexandr Milov’s Love tells us to let go of the anger and resentment that solidifies that yawning gap between us caused by our conflicts, and to embrace the forgiving spirit of our inner child when the darkness threatens to consume us. But how do we forgive when we are reminded every day that those bad choices made are the very reason the darkness in our souls exist? How do we let go of the anger and the hatred when they are the only things holding our walls up and protecting our hearts from being broken yet again? How do we put our trust in love when love is what drove us to make these choices in the first place?

Lost to love

‘Girl Before a Mirror’ by Pablo Picasso

I’ve been dating ever since I was 15 years old. I can count on two hands the number of relationships I’ve been in, but only on one hand the number of serious ones. And out of all the boyfriends I’ve had, I’ve only ever really been in love with one, because he was the only one who could ever meet me on my own level, and who knew how to make his life fit seamlessly with mine.

That last statement comes off a little ironic, because in all my years of dating, now matter how I felt about the boys (and later men), I always made a point of adapting myself to them. I learned their habits, their idiosyncrasies, and their lifestyles, and found a way to make room in my life for them. On some occasions, my friends mistook my conformity for actual love, and pointed out that I was losing myself by allowing my life to revolve around my boyfriends’.

I maintained that I wasn’t doing that, and that I was just being flexible, because any woman with a brain knows that it’s much easier to adapt to a man than to try and make a man change his ways for her.

It wasn’t until a few days ago that I finally saw myself through my friends’ eyes.

I came across a post on Instagram that read: “Relationships aren’t built on how many times someone tells you that they love you. Relationships are built on all those times that they didn’t tell you, but showed it to you instead.” And at that moment I found myself thinking, If this is love, then I don’t want it.

As someone who was raised to speak her mind and never say things she didn’t mean, I don’t think I’ve ever taken back anything I’ve ever said or written about anything or anyone. Truths are hard to hear, and read, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s only because people don’t want to have to live with them. My career as a journalist only sought to reinforce my belief in writing the facts — only after having incontrovertible proof that they are true, of course — so that I never had to feel guilty or take them back.

So it was an enormous step out of my comfort zone, not to mention against my own principles, when I was asked to remove something from a recent post, but because it caused a lot of unnecessary backlash i.e. drama. And after much raging, swearing and crying, I relented, not because what I had written wasn’t true, but because I was being asked to by the first person in the world I would have given up everything for.

Immediately after I edited that post, I was filled with a sense of self-loathing and resentment so profound that I knew I would never forgive myself — or him — for what I had been made to do. I was a hypocrite for backing down on what I believed in and doing what I had always been taught never to do, all for the love of one person. I had, once again, allowed every aspect of my life to be controlled by someone I neither know nor respect, all for the love of one person. And in loving someone too much, I had lost myself.

If this is love, then I don’t want it.

Misplaced guilt

You can't steal from the cookie jar and not expect to gain a few pounds

You can’t steal from the cookie jar and not expect to gain a few pounds

“Feel better now? Then let’s get to the bottom of this. You say if you had it to do over again, you’d do it differently. But would you? Think, now. Would you?”

“Well –“

“No, you’d do the same things again. Did you have any other choice?”

“No.”

“Then what are you sorry about?”

“I was so mean and now he’s dead.”

“And if he wasn’t dead, you’d still be mean. As I understand it, you are not really sorry for marrying Frank and bullying him and inadvertently causing his death. You are only sorry because you are afraid of going to hell. Is that right?”

“Well — that sounds so mixed up.”

“Your ethics are considerably mixed up too. You are in the exact position of a thief who’s been caught red-handed and isn’t sorry he stole but is terribly, terribly sorry he’s going to jail.”

– Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind

It’s something I’ve never understood, especially now. We make the conscious decision to do certain things — lowly, despicable things — and we keep doing them because we’re sure that we’ll be able to get away with them. But then when we are found out, we go on a rampage, blaming everyone but ourselves for our abysmal lapse in judgment because now the world sees us for what we really are.

So it’s perfectly acceptable to be a psychotic stalker, as long as nobody calls you out on it? That’s like trying to murder the judge who sent you to prison for murdering someone in the first place.

Same same but different

byblos

Earlier today I went to The Curve to look for some things for the restaurant and have lunch, after which I went home for my workout session with my personal trainer. One of the things I love about Mark is that even though he is a firm trainer, he is also a fair one, and knows how to work around little blips like sleep deprivation and my ACL- and PCL-ridden knees. So he knew five seconds into my first set of lunges that my knees are a little busted from working long hours over the last few days, but he knew to cushion the blow by saying, “You’re definitely more than fit enough to work long hours, but maybe lay off the heels a little? You’re not 17 anymore.”

Then he angled his head a little and said, “You look like you’ve lost weight after this past weekend, though!”

After I reveled in that observation — mainly because I didn’t even have to ask him if I look thinner from all the running around I’ve been doing in the last couple of weeks — I thought for a moment and realized that he was right: I’m not 17 anymore.

The restaurant has been open for all of four days, and just from being here all day every day, I’ve gleaned a fair number of things. These are just the most significant ones:

Time changes everything. Very few people know this, but when I was 17 years old, my father opened a restaurant in our old neighborhood. To this day I suspect that he timed the opening for November 30, just two days after my school-leaving certificate exam ended, because he had planned for me to run it all along while he oversaw the kitchen. And run it I did, from the day it opened right up until I moved to Buffalo for my Bachelor’s degree. Those were two years of my life that I’ll never get back, but it taught me to be unyielding in business and to be shrewd of the people around me, and I’m eternally grateful for that.

But that was 15 years ago, and to say that times have changed everything would be a gross understatement. Back then, all I had to do was be in the restaurant, make sure everyone had ordered and been served, keep the money safe, and yell at the meat and ice vendors for consistently being late. Today, even though I don’t handle the operations of this restaurant, I have my own business to manage as well, and I control all our social media platforms. I now fully appreciate how much work it is to own, operate and market a business all on one’s own. Were it not for my ability to work better when I multitask, I would be even grumpier than I already am.

Age changes everything. When I was 17, 18 and 19, running my father’s restaurant was the most significant part of my life, and even though sometimes it felt like it had taken over my life completely, the truth was that I still had the energy to attend classes, have some semblance of a social life, and run the restaurant all at the same time. Now, just a few months shy of my 32nd birthday, I don’t have the energy to do anything except go to bed once I leave the restaurant. It may have something to do with the fact that I go home at some unearthly hour, because I have to be in the restaurant for as long as my friends are there, but I don’t remember the last time I fell asleep so fast or slept so badly.

I must remain childless. For the last few years I’ve made peace with my decision not to have kids, because I always suspected that I would never find the right man in time (I turned out to be right, because I was already 29 when I did find him), and because I’ve always been terrified that I’ll be a bad mother. Now that I work all day every day, I am surer than ever that I can never have kids, and my cats have shown me this. I’ve placed so much importance on my work that I’m hardly ever home, and when I do go home Offa makes it clear that he’s not happy with me at all, and it’s the only time in my life that I’ve ever felt genuinely guilty about anything. I don’t think I would be able to live with the guilt of leaving human children at home to go off to work, yet I don’t think I could ever give up my career to be a mother, so the fairest option would be to not have any human children at all.

Stupid is as stupid does. This needs no further elaboration.