To the Strangest Angel So Far
This letter is written to discuss how being hurt can be a good thing. I’m not speaking about bondage, domination, whipping, caning, pinching or anything even remotely sensual. I’ll thank you to keep your head out of the gutter. We both know you’re better than that.
Better is a good place to begin. A long time ago, I wrote a song with that title, and it wasn’t a Rocky Balboa style montage. It hurt deeply to write, and hurts to play to this day. I begin with Better, and the idea of better, because that is how most of my early life was characterised in one way or another. The irony of this was that nothing was really wrong with me physically, or even in terms of the chemicals shooting around my brain.
For this story to make sense, I must touch on my original state. I was a very emotional child, and very in touch with grief. When I first heard the song ‘Steven’ by Alice Cooper, I immediately connected the pennies with parental death, and instead of being frightened by the theme of death, I cried. Not for a short time, either. For a good half hour, the fundamental notion of grief and loss was palpable. I understood what it meant to grieve, and in hearing that song, I grieved with the singer for the passing of loved ones, real or otherwise. This was my natural state, a pure outlet of connection and emotion.
I was encouraged, violently, to be better from that age. To work harder, to strive, to achieve. At the same time, I was belittled and had it drummed into me that I was nothing, that I would never amount to anything. I’ve written previously on other traumas and uplifting experiences I was privy to, so I won’t digress too far. Dichotomous a background as you can imagine, the benefits included a survivalist will, idealism, and the urge to never give up. Sadly, these impulses were counteracted by depressive tendencies, emotive reactivity and idealism.
Incidentally, if you didn’t get the joke just now, you probably wouldn’t get idealism – but I know you did, and you do.
With any unfair hurt comes a set of conflicting emotions. The urge to seek recompense, or to exact revenge, levelled against notions like forgiveness, moving on, and the best vengeance being a happy life. In the modern age we like to share all these memes and videos describing how simple, how easy it is to just deal with emotional blows, betrayals, attacks, as it is second nature. We tell ourselves it is normal to be measured, calm, peaceful. We love to respond with negativity and criticism whenever somebody reacts to what’s going on their lives with anything other than sage counsel regarding themselves and others. If someone freaks out publicly, the proverbial room of their friends and associates empties, the remainder swooping like vultures to pick at the carcass of recently butchered dignity.
Sadly the idea that humanity is a measured animal is built on utter bullshit, and this would be something I’d learn, repeatedly, more often than I would like to admit or imagine.
So there I was, striving to be better. I was doing my best to uphold old school moralities while conflating and reconciling them with new school ideas. I had already experienced innumerable moments of hurt, unfair hurt, hurt that rooted its reasons in so-called love, or lessons to be taught, or experience. No great explanations, but hurt regardless. A consistent theme permeated, and it went deep, pushing up weeds made from anger, blame and a strident wish for co-existence justice and peace. Suffice to say I was trying to be a great person but I had serious issues.
Enter romance. A new but somehow familiar feeling mangled together through partners lying and cheating; the put-downs, the emotional scarring from allowing yourself, finally, to open to vulnerability, only to be shot down by bullets of disdain for perceived weakness or an inability to cope with the reality of another human being’s experience. The cliches that men shouldn’t cry, that men should suffer in silence, sickened me, but they were thrown in my direction and I swallowed them in the name of love.
The idea that nothing attracts the eternally asexual attentions of a woman like the tears of a man had become normal.
In hindsight the consistent theme was almost too obvious, but I couldn’t see it. Another partner to judge, to elevate me to pedestal status while dragging down the constituent pieces that represented who I really was. I had been abused and the dark beast riding on my back was looking for more. There is no other explanation for consistently chasing lovers who would constantly pick, laugh at my misfortunes, and physically attack. Even a dacryphiliac made an appearance in the paramour parade.
After that, including my lovers in concert with the rest, the avalanche began. Work colleagues, friends, fellow artists, salespeople, politicians, the high, the low, the rich, the poor. The consistency of laying blame for actions taken against other people, the idea that denying accountability and making counter accusations wasn’t a black joke but a daily ritual designed to keep any given individual afloat, hurt me incredibly. The wall went up, thorns and all in my heart of hearts, and I wasn’t even aware.
By the time I met you, I had begun to believe that life was about pain. I had started to convince myself that reconciling oneself with loss, with the intrusive reprisals of, well, everyone, was simply how it had to be. Every time something or someone hurt me, without fail I could – whether I admitted it or not – point to something they had done to me, some selfish, vile intent unworthy of the ideals I craved to be a part of and would only ever half achieve in human form. Yet halfway was a billion streets ahead of those I surrounded myself with, and so I suffered, and suffered, and suffered. My deepest self always found a way to surface of course, in silly jokes, in eternal optimism despite the ongoing pessimism of depression. Nonetheless, I had made a habit of mistaking crimes against my soul for grief.
Worse, I’d forgotten how to grieve, and I had lost the ability to hurt in the purest sense.
When you arrived, I wasn’t ready, not by a long shot. Perhaps neither of us were. Covering our scars from previous romantic battlegrounds, we discovered something truly special, a kindred spirit of self-blame with a penchant for self-destruction through nothing more than the will to give. You wanted to give of yourself to me, and I to you.
Two doormats waiting for the boots to roll right over us.
With you the boots never came. The number of times you scolded me for not accepting assistance, for trying to constantly be the giver regardless of the thanks I’d likely never receive…well today you’d be happy to know I laughed about that. They were the strangest arguments I could imagine. This beautiful gossamer darling pointing a finger and demanding I let someone else do something for me. Vice-versa too. It was beautiful.
When I started to spill, my ‘big emotions’ as you called them rushing forth in a torrent of seemingly senseless, angry word-jumbles fraught with past, present and future fears, I couldn’t see the gifts you were giving. I saw them later though, when I cried in your arms. When I apologised for speaking so much shit, and you just smiled, telling me it had been inside for too long, that you understood. You told me how behind it all you could see how much I was hurting, how the urge to be alone was an illusion I’d managed to convince myself was a necessity; how I’d learned to quickly and easily convince anyone worth a damn that they ought to leave me high and dry, ready for the next abuser.
I sometimes wonder if I ever managed to convey the simultaneous sense of embarrassment, relief and awe that your gentle manner of healing left in me. I know I gave some gifts to you too, similar acts of service. Words of wisdom, gentle praise, understanding of your faults, and above all, a staunch rebuke for blaming yourself. I suppose acceptance was my gift for you. Your gifts outshone mine at every turn though, and this too was something entirely new. I wasn’t ready for that either.
Regardless, your greatest, most exquisite gift was yet to come: when you left me.
It seems insane to say it. When I describe how we were kindred souls, how we nurtured and loved each other, how we gifted such incredibly deep, beautiful restoratives on a soul plane, it makes no sense. Sadly the truth of existence is based on impermanence, and the truth of us, was that we would end. You were a wise woman, a healer at heart, a scientist and a deeply serious creature. Uncovered at last, I’d rediscovered my fool, my universal child, and he wasn’t the man the wise woman dreamed of. Perhaps one day in the distant future, but more than likely not in this lifetime.
Like all children, there came a time when you had to let me go. The irony was awful.
Then it came. A deluge of pure, unadulterated grief. I cried, great, big wracking sobs. I’d lost someone, and something, of immeasurable value. I couldn’t help but grieve, openly. Therein lay your most incredible gift. Unlike every hurt since I was a child, you gave me no reason other than the reality of an ending. No crime against me, no gossip, no false, evil words, no blame, no theft, no violence, no hate, no spite and no gain. You had left me, for my own good, and for yours.
How could I hold anything against you? I could not.
To lose you, my angel, hurt more in a sense than any breakup I’d ever experienced. Not because you hurt me with your hurry to leave – although in a sense that’s also a truth – but largely because it was pure. You opened the gate and the pain poured forth, rushed by the tide of former agonies, that old pent-up sludge flying by and vanishing in the wake of simple, reasonless loss. I’d cried before, sure. I’d raged and broken sentimental objects, laid myself out for days on the floor, eaten myself stupid, self-harmed, abused friends in the middle of a drunken rampage, you name it I’d done it in the name of so-called grief. That was the trick though; all those times before, it wasn’t really grief. It was hurt, but it was the kind of hurt you deal with on a battlefield, or lost in the woods, hounded by wolves with only your spear for protection. This, oh this was so much more.
This was grief, and at long last I understood what it meant to lose someone worth keeping. Someone of value, someone who you might admire. Someone who had truly loved you before they decided to leave.
It is the most peculiar feeling, to speak so positively of something so painful, something that still gives me pause to shed a tear from time to time. I have thanked others in the past, for their lessons, for teaching me how to patch wounds with nothing but the fierce will to survive; or for teaching me not to trust. You however, the Strangest Angel, I thank most of all, for teaching me that I was not the only one with the will to give; for showing me how I really look when I act like me without fear of destruction; and most of all, for reminding me once more how to grieve.
You may not understand, although I truly hope you do. I love you for this. Grief is a pure and natural event, so necessary to our continued happiness in the long run. Aside from love, gentility, beautiful memories of kindness and comfort, you gave grief back to me. Thank you, now and forever.