I’ll never forget something my first long term boyfriend wrote in a letter to me when we broke up. He said I made him feel better and worse than anybody ever had. It’s a sentiment that has followed me since, and one I am musing on in the aftermath of my most recent breakup, which, coincidentally, also occurred mostly in letter form.
When someone tells you, with complete certainty, that your love is a double edged sword they can no longer run in to, while your first thought might be to wonder if they were ever a lyricist for Whitesnake or Poison’s 80s power ballads, if you’re someone who strives to learn from the error of your ways, the thought that follows is likely to be ‘what is it about me that leads people to feel this way?’.
It’s normal to go through a period of critical review when a relationship ends. It’s also normal to experience some potentially productive self-doubt, and to question how you might have done things better. I’d be presenting an incomplete view of myself were I to shy away from admitting that in times of fear and frustration, especially around feeling misunderstood, I tend to be a far from rational person. I can be quick to lose my temper. I’m not always a great listener. I have a really irritating (even to myself) tendency to cut my loved ones off when they’re speaking. I can be so sure that I am seeing ‘the truth’ of a situation that I become relentless in a way that I imagine is pretty hard to deal with. I get defensive. In my urgency to get my point across, I become insensitive with the information I’m presenting. I’ve even been known to throw things once or twice.
All of these aspects of myself are things I’m actively working on by doing everything from reading articles on how to disarm conflict, learning to be a less reactive listener, biting my tongue for just a few moments, and practicing not taking things personally. I am ready and willing to be held accountable for the areas that I would be well served to grow in. I want to be a better friend, lover and partner, and I actively invite constructive input on how I might be able to achieve those things. I want the people I care about, and especially the ones I choose to cultivate relationships with, to feel safe and supported with me.
With all these things in mind, I accept that my behaviour can – and has – hurt the people I love and even pushed them away from me. I’m doing what I can to learn from my mistakes, and if you feel there’s something I need to hear from you about that, I will do my best to listen, even if I can’t help but interrupt once or twice.
But – and it’s a fairly big ‘but’ – I talk to a lot of different people. People tend to share things with me that they are hesitant to share with others. I’m very interested in the nature of human interaction and relationships. I watch from the sidelines. I pay attention. And as a result, I’ve seen and heard a lot of not so nice things that people admit to doing to each other, both unconsciously when hurt or angry, and in clearer moments when actively wanting to teach the person they love a lesson, or gain their attention. Lying to their partners. Saying mean and unkind things to provoke a response. Being demanding. Actively trying to inspire jealousy. Ignoring them for days. Taking their care for granted and manipulating that care. Losing their shit in major ways, and blaming the other for it. Despite these things that I see and hear, their relationships don’t tend to end in the blaze of screaming glory followed by the block-you-on-all-the-things silence that mine seem to have these last few years.
No doubt there are numerous contributing factors, including that I have been bent towards unconventional loving from day one, tend to be drawn to creative and passionate people often at difficult or transitional times in their lives, and have also been in some less than straightforward relationships of late. There isn’t exactly a control in this little hypothetical experiment of mine, and I maintain a healthy level of scepticism when my mind goes looking for deeper meaning than might be sensible. The point I get stuck on is that the very people who describe having perpetrated and/or suffered much ‘worse’ treatment in their previous relationships lasted a lot longer in those cases or still maintain some sort of closeness down the track, while they seem to flee the scene of the crime with me as quickly and completely as possible. Run screaming, only stopping to slam the door behind them.
The point that gets me really squirming in my seat is that, from what I hear in the rehashing or see for myself, all these consciously and unconsciously not very nice things seem to be considered relatively acceptable behaviour, capable of being let go of, whereas something about how I act and impact people is enough to inspire them to hit the delete button. And then empty the trashcan permanently.
Something that our unsung Whitesnake hero wasn’t aware of when he wrote his letter was that about a week earlier, I’d been doing some juju magic with my kinesiologist.* In the scope of my treatment, she told me something about myself that resonated very deeply, especially in light of the recent diagnosis of likely Bipolar II Disorder.
Allow me to take a moment to list the main symptoms of Bipolar II for you –
- High energy levels
- Positive mood
- Inappropriate behaviour
- Mystical experiences.
Then let me to draw your attention to items number 1, 2, 5 and 6. And point out that these things are considered the symptoms of an ILLNESS.
How does one get anything done without enough energy? Without a positive mood, what are we left to feel? How does one even contemplate living without creativity, or a sense of the majesty and wonder of the world? Surely it’s a lack of these very things that constitutes depression, or a disorder? It makes me so mad, I want to puke! Yes, I know we’re talking about aggravated levels that require moderation for ‘normal’ daily life to be possible (says she who has been writing a minimum of several thousand words a day, while working full time, walking 5-10kms daily, and feeling seriously connected to spirit…), but I’m seriously pissed about this, as you can probably tell.
I value my optimism. Mystical experiences are how my mind is able to see the bigger picture, and I’m able to be a light bearer for those in the dark. Creativity is what drives me to write, make music, dance, cook, heal, and connect. My high energy levels are what saw me through almost a decade in the music industry, making good shit happen, and all the years that I’ve loved more than the average number of people fiercely, widely and thoroughly. Not to mention the basis for the resourcefulness the same man who accused me of impaling him with my love praised me for on more than one occasion. Even ‘inappropriate’ behaviour has its place from time to time.
Bearing in mind that I had been yo-yoing from hopeful to hopeless, deeply loving and caring to blisteringly angry, bright and bubbly to desolate, and brilliantly capable to feeling totally vulnerable over the preceding weeks, the idea of duality had been at the forefront of my thoughts. The diagnosis, while troubling on an existential level, has been helpful in other ways, and I’m glad to say I’ve started to strike a more enjoyable balance lately.
Head back to the treatment room, and my kinesiologist telling me that I have both great darkness as well as light. That I need to become comfortable with the reality that I am a double edged sword.
It’s a truth that I’ve been coming to terms with for some time, and in that moment, before that fateful letter, I agreed wholeheartedly.
I decided it was time to embrace the idea, and see how I could enlist and get it working for better myself and the people closest to me.
When I read those same words so soon after, in a break up letter, they sure struck a chord. But it was a dissonant one, because while I may agree that I am a double edged sword, I adamantly defy the idea that my love is.
When I weigh my heart up against the Feather of Truth, I am confident that my deeds balance the scales. As I’ve heard over and over, from people who meet me fleetingly, and from the people who know me the best, something I am not is unkind. I am never mean. I seek always to understand and accept, I forgive, I welcome back any prodigal love who seeks to be back in my arms. I give second and third chances. I see the best in others, even when they don’t. Especially when they don’t. I love people back to life. I love them as they are, even if I ask them to treat me differently from time to time.
So the discord got me thinking. Really thinking. What is it about me that leads back to this belief that being close to me is an unavoidably painful duality, wherein the hurt inevitably becomes too much to bear?
And as I looked at myself in my mirror, feeling deeply beautiful for the first time in more than a minute, it struck me.
In relationships, we become mirrors for each other.
Through interaction, we have the chance to see ourselves from another perspective. Reflected back at ourselves, through the eyes and presence of an other.
And, as my calling card states, I am a truth seeker. A perpetual evolver. A human with a deep connection to the divine, and a relentless commitment to being the best version of myself I can be, and to helping those around me achieve the same. I refuse to believe that what is broken cannot be repaired. That what is not working cannot be improved upon. That the fallen cannot be redeemed, to get a little biblical on yo’ ass. It’s one of the qualities that people are drawn to me for, but I’ve seen time and time again that it comes to cause problems, and I think I’m finally starting to understand why.
In relationships, I am a mirror. I will show you yourself.
But because I am also a double edged sword, I will show you the best and the worst of yourself.
I will give you the opportunity to face yourself; to heal, to grow, to learn, to burrow deep, and to take flight. I will love you with darkness and with light.
All you have to do is not be afraid to see yourself.
And this, folks, is what my musings have lead me to.
Just like anybody else, I will lose my temper when pushed or under stress, say thoughtless things in the heat of the moment, and sometimes expect too much from you. I will be confusing and change my mind and show my pain in a way that might leave you unsure of how to care for me best.
But, as we all know, that’s not enough to send people running, or convince them they need to shut the door forever. No one’s actions have that power.
The only thing that can have that result is being scared to truly see ourselves in all of our tragic, flawed, wounded brilliance. Feeling forced to confront something we are not willing, ready or able to see because the person loving us needs us to see it. That shit is scary! That shit is way worse than any monster under the bed. Far more unforgiveable than any unkind act between two angry lovers. And a much more understandable reason for taking flight with a one way ticket. Especially when that little mirror, seeking to discover such truths about herself and sometimes ignorant of the likelihood that you are not, is most likely unaware of just how scared you really are.
From here on in, as I work even harder on being kinder, calmer, more tactful, and a better listener, becoming more adept at seeking an invitation to reveal, I intend to embrace my duality. Yes, I’m going to be more upfront about what it involves to get truly close to me. You better believe that I will be clear as hell that being one of my heart’s chosen companions involves a high chance of facing your darkness as well as your light, because my very nature is to seek out and reveal truth, and to deny that ability is to deny a vital part of myself. I intend to embrace my beautiful ability to reflect so clearly and fully. But I hope to become ever more reassuring that I will be able to love you through it, even though it may end up scaring the pants off you. I will do my best to ask you if you’re ready for that kind of love. The love of a double edged sword, with whom you will feel better and worse than you ever have.
Because the truth is we need to know that we are worthy of love. No matter how much we might fear ourselves. And I am the perfect woman for the job.
And if that isn’t a lyric worthy of a Whitesnake power ballad, then I don’t know what is…
* kinesiology is the use of subtle muscle testing to find out what’s going on with the body, but which for me, is akin to diagnostic magic healing for the soul, if you’re prepared to do the work. With the right practitioner, weird and wonderful stuff happens, if you’re open to it. If you’re stuck with emotional wounds or blockages, or recurring physical issues, consider checking it out.