Tag Archives: love

A Few Truths About Love

22 Aug

The truth about love is that there is a part of you that honestly believes that giving away all of your love will – no, must – result in receiving some kind of equal love back. If you didn’t believe this, your love would be impossible. How else could you justify all of the heartsick tears, the sleepless nights, the work and play that you’ve neglected?

The truth about love is that it’s not a physics equation. There is no law of conservation of love. Love can be created; love can be destroyed. The love that you put out into the world will not last forever, ricocheting between atoms, shifting shape as needed. A thoughtless heart can stop your love cold.

The truth about love is that someone can love you very much and still be careless or hurtful. Love is not a charm that protects you. Love is not magic. Love is not inherently good.

The truth about love is that your faith in it is misplaced; love is not a god or a system of belief or an altar at which you should kneel down and sacrifice. Love is a wild, dangerous force – exhilarating, yes, but also destructive. Loving someone else is like standing at the edge of the water in the middle of a hurricane; the waves that smash against the shore are mesmerizingly beautiful, but the threat of drowning is very real.

The truth about love is that it is a slippery beast. A slippery beast with teeth like razor blades.

The truth about love is that it is so bound up with regret that it seems impossible to separate the two. You regret the words you said, which you didn’t realize would come out so badly. You regret how vulnerable you let yourself be, how you cracked open your chest to reveal your still-beating heart. You regret all the chances you gave, the forgiveness you bled so freely. You regret the time not spent together, the days you sat side by side on the couch both engrossed in your laptops. You regret the time wasted arguing or sulking or spent in a state of deliberate misunderstanding. You regret the beginning, because it could only ever lead to this. You regret the ending, because of everything you’ll never get back. You try so hard not to regret everything in between, but you do. You do.

The truth about love is that so many of us have a hard time differentiating between love and habit.

The truth about love is that it’s not a panacea or a cure-all. You can have all the love in the world and still be just as broken as ever. Being in love will not fix you; after the first flush of romance you will find that you are in exactly the same place, except that now you have to worry about dragging someone else down with you.

The truth about love is that we talk about it as if it’s something we’re somehow owed, but really, it’s not. People deserve to be treated with decency and respect. People deserve basic necessities like food, shelter and clean water. People deserve to feel safe. No one deserves love.

The truth about love is that you would do it all again.

Vintage Photos of Hurricanes and Their Aftermath (4)

Advertisements

How To Be Loved

8 Apr

Is there anything worse than being offered nice, pat aphorisms instead of actual advice?

For example, when you don’t get into your post-secondary school of choice and suddenly everyone and their mother gives you some variation on the old everything happens for a reason theme.

Or when your high school best friend is a jerk to you again and, instead of sympathizing, your mother reminds you that a leopard never changes its spots. Like, great, Mom, I just wanted a hug and maybe some chocolate, not a biology lesson about large jungle cats.

Or else how, when you were a kid and you were feeling kind of bummed out about the fact that your birthday party or whatever had just ended and all of your friends had to go home, some asshole grownup decided to remind you that all good things must come to an end. Like, no shit, Sherlock, I didn’t think I’d managed to bend the time-space continuum in order to create some kind of eternal birthday party. The fact that I knew that it was going to end didn’t make saying goodbye to my friends any less sucky.

For me, though, the worst saying was always, always, “You can’t love someone until you learn to love yourself.”

Seriously, hearing that is like the auditory equivalent of biting tin foil.

First of all, it always seems to come up whenever one of two things happens:

a) You’re experiencing abnormally high amounts of self-loathing

(slight digression: define “abnormally”)

b) You’ve just had some kind of romantic experience that ended badly

I used to get so irritated when people told me that I couldn’t love anyone else until I loved myself. I mean, first of all, it’s demonstrably untrue. I’m a chronic self-loather, and I fall in love at the drop of a hat. Seriously, a dude just has to say something smart, or be nice to a small child, or stand so that the light is hitting him in just the right way, and I’m done. Gone. Smitten. Head over heels.

Second of all, whenever I would hear this, I would think great, thanks, you’re basically telling me that I’m going to be single for the rest of my life. I mean, sure, it would be nice not to hate myself, but self-love isn’t really something that I see happening for me anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong, my therapist and I are working on it, but let’s be realistic here: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and those Ancient Romans had way more stick-to-itiveness than I do.

And you know what? I would even argue that it’s actually easier, in some cases, to love someone else when you don’t love yourself. Because what else are you going to do with all that pent up love and affection you’ve got stored away somewhere? And if that person doesn’t reciprocate, or treats you badly in any way, that just goes to show you that you weren’t really worth anything in the first place after all. The cycle perpetuates itself, and everybody wins. Except you, of course.

It’s also just kind of a weird, victim-blamey thing to say to someone. Like, maybe you could have love if you would stop feeling so shitty about yourself all the time. Just make a choice to be happy! Bootstraps, people. BOOTSTRAPS.

It wasn’t until I started dating Matt that I suddenly realized what this old saying actually meant. It’s not about being unable to love another person while you hate yourself because; it’s about how hard it is to be loved by someone else while you’re stuck in a deep pit of self-loathing.

Matt started using the L word (no, not lesbians) pretty early on in our relationship. And it made me uncomfortable, but it took me a while for me to figure out why, exactly, that was. I started feeling weird about him, started picking apart his behaviours, looking for something wrong with him. I called my friend Debbie, who had known him slightly longer than I had, and asked,

“What’s his deal? Is he some kind of weirdo or psychopath?”

“No,” she said, “he’s a totally nice guy, as far as I know. Why? Did he do something.”

“He keeps telling me he loves me.”

Debbie just laughed and said,

“Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? I mean, isn’t it?”

It didn’t feel nice, though. It felt weird.

I don’t remember what triggered it, but sometime during our first summer together I had some kind of epiphany. I realized that I was trying to figure out what was wrong with Matt because there was a part of me, a fairly big part of me, that didn’t believe that a sincerely nice, normal human being could actually love me or want to be with me. I figured that anyone who said they loved me and meant it probably had bodies buried in the basement or wanted to have sex with their mother or actually thought that Atlas Shrugged was a good book.

But Matt is nice, and (mostly) normal. He wasn’t the one who was fucked up. I was.

To be depressed is to constantly have his very calm, very rational voice whispering in your ear, telling you how awful and worthless you are. It’s being trapped inside an airless glass room, watching everyone around you pile up success after success while you can barely button your shirt or tie your shoes. It’s knowing that you are not capable of doing anything, not one single thing, of value.

Depression is mistrusting every good thing that happens. Depression is realizing that, when things seem to be going your way for once, this is always the part of the movie when aliens attack and destroy the earth. Depression is the need to constantly be on the lookout for the secret trap door, for the ulterior motive, for whatever the catch might be.

Depression is the certainty that you’ve finally taken off the rose-coloured glasses are seeing yourself quite clearly for the first time.

Depression is being sickened by your own reflection.

So how can you ever trust a person who loves someone like you?

And I’ve been wondering, lately, if it’s ever, at any time, possible to be depressed and love yourself? If you are someone who is clinically, chronically depressed, does that mean that you’re stuck with self-loathing for the rest of your life? Are misery and self-love ever able to co-exist? Or are those states totally, fundamentally contradictory?

I guess what I’m really trying to get at here is this:

Will I ever like, maybe even love, myself?

And I try. I really do.

I make lists. I remind myself of all of the good things in my life. I try to view my successes in their own right, rather than seeing them as opportunities to fail even harder somewhere further on down the road. I give myself pep talks. When all else fails, I call my mom.

Being depressed means that I have a hard time accepting anything positive. Good news makes me feel sick to my stomach. Compliments make me deeply uncomfortable. Smiling makes my cheeks ache.

And, after eight years of being with Matt, accepting the fact that someone else loves me is still a struggle. I ask him, often, if he still loves me. I make him promise that he’ll never leave me. I bury my face in his chest and tell him to wrap his arms around me as tightly as he can.

Other times, when I’m in a real low, I don’t even want him near me. I don’t want to be touched, I don’t want to be held, I don’t want to be loved. His affection for me irritates me, sometimes even angers me. When I’ve reached rock bottom, all I want is to be totally and utterly alone. Preferably forever.

I’m hard to love.

And I have a hard time being loved.

Eight years in and I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m still waiting for the bodies in the basement to be discovered, or else for the Oedipus complex to be revealed.

Still.

I want to ask if this is going to get any easier, but I would guess that the truth is that it’s a process. You learn to stop the negative self-talk, and you learn to let other people get close to you. You learn to accept that good things happen, too, sometimes. You stop balking at the idea of happiness, that elusive state which somehow manages to simultaneously be the goal that you’ve spent the majority of your life chasing and also the thing that terrifies you the most.

You stop giving all of your love away and learn to keep some for yourself.

Maybe that’s the secret to being loved.

309_68974385214_3487_n

309_68974395214_3830_n

309_68974405214_4152_n

Three Memories

17 Mar

1. It’s a grey, dreary Saturday afternoon in early August, 1997. I’m at my friend Liz’s apartment; she’s throwing me a party for my fifteenth birthday. It’s not a big party – more of a get-together, really, with a handful of friends sitting around on Liz’s living room floor. Somebody has brought the obligatory cake, and there are gifts, too, but those are beside the point.

My real birthday present is that Liz has somehow convinced her mother to rent Trainspotting for us. Not only that, but her mother has actually left us alone to watch it.

I have been dying to see this movie ever since it came out the year before. I own the soundtrack (well, I own a taped copy of the soundtrack that my friend made for me). I have postcards showing scenes from the movie stuck on my wall. I’ve cut out every interview with Ewan MacGregor that I can find and pinned them to my bulletin board. My friend Emily somehow saw Trainspotting in theatres (in spite of the fact that she was too young for its R rating), and I’ve made her give me a play-by-play of all of its scenes.

I am so fucking ready for this.

I sit there and watch the fuck out of that movie, my fingers dug deep into the grey pile of the living room carpet. I drink in everything, even, maybe especially, the things that I don’t understand. I don’t flinch away from the achingly awful, sometimes sickening parts that I later won’t be able to watch as an adult. I watch this movie like I’ll be writing a final exam in which 100% of my grade is based on a essay regarding Mark Renton and his life choices.

I am fifteen. I am a virgin. I’ve never even smoked a cigarette, never mind fucking around with heroin. I don’t cut class. I don’t break my curfew. I try so hard to be good.

But in my whole life I have never had something speak to me the way Mark Renton’s opening monologue does:

Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons.

Because already I know that I’m not going to choose any of those things. I don’t know what I want in life, but the list of things that I don’t want is long and involved. I’m fifteen, so compromise doesn’t yet exist.

I am going to take the fucking world by storm, and I am not going betray any of my values along the way.

2. It’s a bright spring day in 2003. I have recently sort of, maybe started dating my friend. We have been on one, maybe two dates, but we haven’t kissed yet. He comes over to my house and we watch my favourite movie, The Red Violin. I lean against him and put my head first on his shoulder, then on his lap. I am so tentative, so nervous.

I am so in love with him.

Afterwards, he walks me back to the Dalhousie campus. I have to go work at the school call centre, where we try to convince alumni to donate money to the university. We end up wandering over to the stairs leading up to the Grad House (a misnomer of a pub where undergrad students are totally welcome) and I stand on the second step, so that I’m the same height as him.

Suddenly, he leans in and kisses me, then grabs me and spins me around until we’re both dizzy and giggling.

“Well, that makes things less awkward,” he says.

I bury my face in the front of his coat. I can’t stop smiling. In that moment, everything is sharply, painfully perfect. It doesn’t matter that in a little over two months’ time we will end up lost in a blind alley of shortcoming and fears and hurt feelings. It doesn’t matter that our friendship will end, not even with a bang, but slowly, painfully, spluttering and gasping to its death over the course of the next two years. It doesn’t matter that he will break my heart, not just once, but over and over.

It doesn’t matter, because even if someone had told me all of the awful things that were to come, I still wouldn’t have traded that one wonderful moment for a calmer, happier, but ultimately emptier world.

3. It’s a hot, sunny summer day in 2004. I am wearing a brown tank top and a skirt that my aunt bought me for my birthday. The skirt, which hits just below the knee, is cream with a brick-red pattern of swirls on it; it’s made of jersey cotton, which means that it moves with and clings to my body in the best way possible. The waistband is a thick elastic, in the same brick-red colour, and it dips down into a v in the front. I love the cut of this waistband an unreasonable amount.

I am walking next to Citadel Hill in Halifax. I have my discman in my purse, and I’m listening to my roommate’s copy of Hawksley Workman’s (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves. Specifically, I am listening to Striptease. The sun is hot on my face and shoulders. My hair hangs long, dusty, tangled down my back. I am swaying my hips, wiggling my shoulders.

For the first time in a long time I feel perfectly at home in my body. I feel sexy, in a dirty, earthy way. I feel like someone who might be desirable.

I look down and notice that my skirt has slipped enough to show off the top of my black thong. I barely pause for long enough to hike my skirt back up, and then I keep going.

renton_tracks

Shrevolution! Or, I Hate Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

I’m just going to go ahead and put this out there: I’m not exactly the world’s biggest fan of Valentine’s Day.

I mean, it’s fine when you’re a little kid. You make sure to wear something red or pink, tell your parents how much you love them, and draw hearts all over every-fucking-thing. Everyone in your class gives you a card, your gorge yourself on chocolate, then spend the afternoon in a sugar-fuelled frenzy and throw up all over your babysitter’s carpet. End of story.

Then you hit puberty, and Valentine’s Day becomes this huge, looming thing. Like, it’s the only day where you can truly prove just how much you love (or, at least, want to fuck) another person. You can be in a happy committed relationship for every other day of the year, but if you happen to be single on Valentine’s Day, then you, my friend, are the most pathetic person in the world. Or at least you’re made to feel like you are.

My dislike for Valentine’s Day has slowly evolved over the years. In grade school I thought it was fine, maybe even sort of fun, and in high school I endured it, handing out ironic valentines to friends and crushes alike (go ahead, ask me how well that worked in the dating department). By university, though, I was ready to declare open season on V-Day.

I decided that the modern-day, grown-up version of Valentine’s Day was nothing less than a capitalist nightmare, chock-full of obligations to spend money: on flowers, on dinner, on chocolates, on jewellery, on sexy lingerie. There were other, insinuated obligations, too. For example, women were expected to pay for all the attention and money lavished on them by putting out, whether they wanted to or not. I even once had a male friend say to me, “If I buy my girlfriend flowers for Valentine’s Day, she basically has to have sex with me, right?”

Uh, no, dude. She doesn’t.

And, I mean, seriously, out of all the thinly-Christianized pagan celebrations to take hold this side of the Atlantic, how did crappy old Valentine’s Day manage to make it onto that list? Why can’t we celebrate May Day and dance around may poles? How come we don’t do anything for St. John’s Eve, a.k.a. Midsummer? I would way rather build some bad-ass bonfires in June than hand out ugly, mass-produced cards in February.

All of this was part of the reason why my roommates and I decided to throw an Anti-Valentine’s-Day party during second year. My mother had put a package of pink, heart-shaped Post-It notes in my stocking that Christmas, so we used those to decorate our apartment, scrawling things like, “LOVE IS AN ILLUSION” and “FUCK YOU” on them. You know, the usual romantic stuff.

Aside from the fact that a girl that no one liked and no one would admit to inviting ended up vomiting red wine all over our bathroom, the party was a resounding success.

The next year, my friends and I celebrated Valentine’s Day a little differently. Our plans started innocently enough: we were going to go eat greasy, delicious, non-romantic food and then go somewhere for drinks. There were four of us, two of whom had boyfriends, and all we really wanted was a quiet, Galentine’s night out.

Once we got to the pub, things went downhill fast.

A few drinks into the evening, the ranting began. And, naturally, the more we drank, the more belligerent we became.

“Fuck Valentine’s Day!” said one of my friends, “People think it’s all about women, but really it’s all about dicks getting some action.”

“Yeah, fuck dicks,” said another. “I mean, don’t actually fuck them, but also, fuck them.”

“Valentine’s Day should be for clits, not dicks! Dudes should be obligated to prove that they can perform proper oral sex before taking a woman out for V-Day,” said someone else. “Clit not dick! Clit not dick!”

Clit Not Dick ended up becoming our mantra for the evening. We repeated it frequently and loudly. We decided that we were going to start a revolution based on our new slogan, one that would free women everywhere from the oppressive shackles of Valentine’s Day. We began approaching romantic-looking couples at other tables to ask if they’d hear the good news about Clit Not Dick. We harassed the band with demands for songs by Veruca Salt, Hole, and, strangely, Counting Crows (they actually did end up playing Mr. Jones, probably just to make us go away).

This was back in the days when you could still smoke in bars, so we started chain-smoking to go along with our drinking. Soon our ashtray was overflowing, and our table was surrounded by a blue haze. We decided that we should pact that night, the four of us, to continue spreading word of the revolution. We touched the glowing tips of our cigarettes together and called it a cigarette pact because, we said, cigarettes don’t lie.

Later, we spilled out onto the street and, arm in arm, began marching down Spring Garden Road singing We Shall Overcome. Whenever we saw a girl getting into a car with a guy, we would run over and try to convince her that she didn’t need him, she only needed herself! We proselytized about the revolution to everybody, shouting CLIT NOT DICK at random intervals.

We found a phone booth and somehow managed to cram all four of us into it. We dialled the tips line for the local newspaper and left them a long, rambling message about capitalism, the revolution, and how Valentine’s Day oppressed women, and, naturally, clit not dick. We finished up by saying that we expected to see something about this in the next day’s paper.

“GET ON IT,” my friend yelled into the phone before hanging up.

One of my friends was so drunk when she got home that she was slurring her words. She tried to tell her boyfriend It’s the revolution! but apparently it came out sounding like Shrevolution! 

Naturally, once the rest of us heard that word, we adopted it as the new name for our movement.

The next year we held another Shrevolution, but the year after that I met Matt, and everything changed.

I learned to love Valentine’s Day and everything that went with it.

PSYCH. I still hate Valentine’s Day. Matt, who is kind of into it, has had to accept that I’m just not a very romantic person. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’ve tried to celebrate it, if only because it seemed to mean something to Matt. But I think he realized pretty early on that it wasn’t my thing – the fact that for our first Valentine’s Day together he gave me a red silk pillow with I Love You embroidered on it and I gave him a swiss army knife may have helped tip him off – and now we’re pretty low-key about it.

But tonight, the Shrevolution will ride again. A bunch of my old Halifax friends are now living in Toronto, and three of us are going out to the Drake tonight to eat fancy, romantic food and get trashed on overpriced cocktails. Because as much as I might laugh at my younger self for some of my ridiculous Shrevolution antics, I can’t say that I entirely disagree with her thoughts on V-Day: that it’s too commercial, too capitalist, and there’s too much obligation to spend money that you might not have. Also the fact that you should celebrate your love for someone every day, not just spend one day a year in the back corner of a third-rate restaurant because that was the only place you could get a reservation, exchanging cheesy Hallmark cards and crappy gifts. Because you know what? Love fucking deserves better than that.

So while you are sitting there trying to whisper sweet nothings in your lover’s ear over the din of everyone else trying to do the same, I will be laughing raucously, swearing like a sailor, and yelling rude things.

Happy Shrevolution, you guys!

awesome_antivalentines_day_cards_640_02

Optimism is better than despair (or, What Would Jack Do?)

23 Aug

A year ago today the rest of Canada and I woke up to learn that Jack Layton had died. A man who had worked tirelessly to better our country, who had spent his life fighting for equality for all Canadians, was gone. I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do.

My friend Mandi and I had a coffee date that morning, so I packed Theo up in his stroller and set out for her place in the east end. Did you hear about Jack? I whispered to her, as if it was some kind of secret. As if saying it out loud would make it true.

She lived around the corner from his office, and we had to walk by it to get to the coffee shop. I want to get some flowers, I told her, to leave in front of his office. But there were no flower shops nearby – just a few East Chinatown convenience stores. The only plant we could find was a little pot of stunted bamboo shoots.

He’ll like it, I said to Mandi, after all, his wife is Chinese.

We started giggling and couldn’t stop. It was easier than crying, or at the very least more socially appropriate.

That week I watched in awe as Torontonians came together to share their love for Jack. Our famously cold, unfriendly city began to bare its soul in chalk messages written all over Nathan Phillips Square. When thunderstorms washed away the chalk, the people came back and filled the square with writing all over again. I have rarely seen something more beautiful than that.

I think that what Jack would have loved most of all was the unity among the people of Toronto that week. All of us, from all walks of life, keenly felt his absence. Although many of us might not have realized what we’d had while he was still living, we suddenly realized how much we’d lost after his death.

Tonight I went back to Nathan Phillips Square for Dear Jack: A Celebration. Much like last year, there were chalk messages written everywhere, and there was a large orange-bedecked crowd milling around. Most of the evening was lovely; I enjoyed the performances (especially Raffi!), and it broke my heart in just the right way to hear Olivia Chow speak about Jack. But I was frustrated that some people chose to use tonight as a platform for their political ideologies.

One woman wrote “Dear Jack, Toronto apologizes for Rob Ford. At least you missed that!” And I thought, how is this a response to someone who asked for love, hope and optimism? Or, as my friend Melissa said, we have 364 days a year to trash Rob Ford – couldn’t we use today as a time to get together to mourn, love, and look towards the future?

I’m glad I went, though. Theo enjoyed running around and playing with the chalk, and I loved running into various friends, exchanging hugs and murmurs of I can’t believe it’s been a year.

We miss you, Jack. I miss you. Thank you for everything you did. Most of all, thank you for inspiring us to continue to fight to build a better country, for helping us to believe in a more loving and just world. I think that your true legacy is the group of people who are using what you’ve built as a starting point, and are now running headlong towards the future, spreading love, hope and optimism along the way.

I won’t let anyone tell me it can’t be done. I will change the world.