Coming Out of the Chrysalis: butterfly kisses, dead cacti and lessons in love learned the hard way
Love. I used to think the only thing I knew about love was what I didn't know about it. Love was a mystery of monumental proportions to me. I wanted it. How I wanted it. Probably a little too much if you feel me. But once I got it, I had not the faintest idea what to do with it. What does it eat? Does it need watering? What happens if I poke at it like this? Okay, so there seems to be no instruction manual for it, so I guess I'll just put it in this airtight container with all these padlocks on the outside so it can't get out/escape/breathe at all.
Invariably, like every houseplant I have EVER owned, love died. Repeatedly. Regularly enough for it be concerning. Frankly, I could kill a love cactus. I either overwatered it, drowning it in some demented version of "love", or alternately I starved it to death or injected it with a vast array of toxic poisons to test its "staying power". In short, if it was in the immediate vicinity of me, it was doomed to expire. Probably sooner rather than later. After about 20 dead "love cacti" it dawned on me that this may have something to do with me. Oh. So...this is awkward.
Let me tell you why this kept happening, and how you can avoid making the same mistakes I made for 20 years. Yes, you heard that right, 20 years.
Take it from a reformed love cactus killer, this does not need to continue if you get wise to your own tricks. Bear with me, and I will share what I have recently learned, only a mere 20 years after I first fell in love, for I have just landed some of the most extraordinary lessons from these fateful floundering forays into the world of love and other drugs. As you can see I am moving at a glacial pace, but as they say, better late than never.
So, the easiest way to explain why so many of us go a little AWOL when it comes to love is this....listen carefully kiddies, this could save you YEARS of heartbreak. This is one of the simplest life lessons you will ever learn, forehead-smackingly simple. The ongoing execution may be a little more difficult than the theory, but you, like me, will get the hang of it. It just takes practice. Lots of bloody practice; but that’s the fun of it right?
So, here it is, here is the life wisdom gold: you know how we as humans actively avoid being seen by others right? Like most of us would rather make out with a bubonic plague carrying rat than have someone see us in all our truth? As in really seen? Warts and all seen. For all that we are...in both the beauty and the ugliness.
You see for some unknown reason, we human beings are deathly afraid that if people get a good look at us, especially a beloved, in our minds they will undoubtedly scream the house down at the internal atrocities their eyes have just witnessed, and run for the hills as fast as their little legs will carry them. Job done. We were right all along; we are totally and utterly unlovable. Ugly fucking Betty indeed.
So, in response to this incredibly common and deep-seated fear, we go about hiding everything we deem "unpalatable" from those we love. Only leaving “the good bits”, right? That's all anyone really wants to see isn' it? The bits that if a magazine were doing a profile on you, you know a crafty piece of personal reportage, only those bits you would drag out and parade before them as "your whole self". The pretty bits, the attractive bits, the bits that are largely non-confrontational, or at the other end of the spectrum, we wave about delightfully titillating bits to distract the intended one from looking closer at the unattractive or boring bits. No no no, don't look that way, over here, shiny moving sparkly things....this way boys....
Yes, yes, yes, don't even bother to deny it, I do it, you do it, we all do it. You can't even imagine the elaborate fantasy twisted chameleon bullshit I have pulled in my time. I have deployed almost every single crafty trick in the book at one time or another, and then been left scratching my head wondering why my lover or partner says or does things that would indicate he or she does not know me at all. How could they not know THAT about me? What was it about the part stripper, part silly, girly giggly git, the housewife-Susan, the domestic goddess partial porn-star routine I seduced them with that made them unable to see the gentle, soft, intelligent, sensitive woman underneath? DO THEY NOT HAVE X-RAY VISION? No Angela, they don't, and you friend, are a fucking marvellous actress with a kinky twist. It's not them honey, it's YOU.
As it transpires, with a bit of clear-eyed hindsight, it is blindingly obvious that the reason they didn't know who I was, was that I buried all of the bits that really matter to me, the things that make me ME, so deep, for fear of "discovery", that even I forgot where Ieft them or that they existed at all. Inevitably, this means that not only do we not know ourselves, but obviously, those we love most oftentimes have not the faintest clue who we are either. And let's then go on and suppose they are also engaged in the same rubbish chicanery toxic waste hide and seek we are, and then...oh dear. Oh this is very very very bad.
The ultimate in oxymorons is that the thing we crave most, being seen and the resulting connection with our beloved, is the thing we try to avoid the hardest for fear that we will actually BE SEEN by that person.
This friends is the death of intimacy as we know it. Two people, locked in love, usually without any malicious intent or conscious clue, but rather out of a very deep sense of self-protection, both pretending to be entirely different people. The result is two people left feeling catastrophically unseen and in a deep state of personal grief.
Quite the pickle isn't it? Makes my killing unnumerable cacti and houseplants seem positively benign, doesn't it?
However, the diagnosis is not fatal. This is where it starts to get good. For this is the moment you get your own call to action to stop running the bullshit script in your head. I say this because do you know the most deeply sexy, attractive thing you can show to another person? YOUR WHOLE SELF. Both the bits you don't love and the bits you think are amazing. Yeah. Those. Show and tell at its most extreme. Showing and telling all (consciously mind, with grounded intention, not simply spraying your crazy all over the walls) is resonantly sensual in a way that being a boring ass chameleon pretend person is not.
You know why? Because the second you stop believing your own bullshit, telling yourself that X and Y make you unlovable, and have the courage to say "this is me, all of me and I am STILL loveable, in fact MORE loveable because of these hilarious/ridiculous/slightly sad things", you set yourself free. TOTAL FUCKING FREEDOM. There is nowhere to hide anymore.
You are finally free from the need to turn yourself into a pretzel guessing at what another person might find attractive/hot/lovable and can just be yourself. Phew! What a relief! For my darlings, if it turns out that the person you love doesn’t want you for who you are, all of your magnificent self, then they are not meant for you. This is doomed from the get go and pretending is only prolonging the inevitable. Better you find this out sooner rather than later, trust me. You could spend years pretending to be Barbie only to discover Ken is gay.
Jokes aside, the one who is meant for you, for however long that may be, will want to see everything. Every-single-thing ;-)
Be the Butterfly AND the Catepillar. One is not more beautiful than the other, it's just about perspective. They are both majestic and anyone worth their salt will see that, and love you more for your courage to bring them both to the table.
Let's be honest, also, despite your best attempts, if you do pursue the hide and seek route despite now knowing its pitfalls, some of your crazy is gonna leak out somewhere along the way. There is no way you can keep that bottled up for long before inevitably it explodes all over yours/your beloved’s face like some kind of horrible scene from Japanese snuff porn film. Like the time I once was so crazed with obsessive horrible twisted “love” (borne out of achingly low self esteem) for a man I had been with in a hideous co-dependent mess for a couple of years, the same man who one day up and dumped me quite publicly and rather callously for a prostitute (this is not made up sadly). I was so beside myself that, high and heart-broken, I scaled the fence of his house shouting obscenities at him and his new "friend" (I was 24 and slightly unhinged back then). Not ideal. I should say, somewhat in defence of my poor unhinged old self, this is a man who after we broke up, would regularly come into my office (yes unsurprisingly I worked for this person) to tell me how much better the sex-worker/new girlfriend's blowjobs were than mine. Well, (a) that's disappointing but also (b) no shit Sherlock, surprise surprise (insert eye roll here). #lawyerlife
So, yes, that folks is an example of what happens when you bottle up all your emotions because you think they're ugly, you’re ugly because they’re ugly. Oh they will come out, oh yes, when you least expect them, and in the most horrifyingly undignified way usually. You’ll likely be scarred by the idignity of it all for years to come. I was. Not as much my behavior, but that I suppressed all those wonderfully gentle parts of myself to “keep” a man.
So, now that you know I am absolutely not immune from the odd Chernobyl-esque explosion in my past, I can say with absolute honesty, that since committing to only interacting with men in my whole self, gritty bits and all, that this has radically shifted. This doesn't happen. I don't go rogue and lose my shit. I trust and know that even those bits that I used to hate are so worthy of love and tender care under a lover's hand, that I bring them to the beginning. I don't wait until everything goes tits up and then bring my crazy to the party. It no longer needs to come to that. So, save yourself some heartache beautiful people, bring all of you to every single relationship you have. Be brave and be honest. Stand unabashedly in your truth.
Be you. All of you. For if all you are is not someone's cup of tea, you will absolutely be someone's perfectly crafted gimlet or (heaven forbid) microbrewed small batch organic hipster bullshit beer.
Fear not gorgeous, you are magnificent, you just need to trust that, bite down hard, for I've heard from a reliable source, it only hurts the first time. Or two. It only gets easier after that. So I'm told ;-)
Go out and chase all that beautiful honest love with every ounce of personal integrity you have and I guarantee sooner or later, that we will be reflected back to you 1000000000 fold.
I LOVE YOU, YOU FUCKING AMAZING BUTTERFLY.