Moonlight

You have a glow to you like moonlight, when I squint I swear I can see it. It suffuses your skin with an opalescent iridescence that feels like magic, like nostalgia, as if you’re a friend from a childhood we never had. I want to discover secret spaces with you, our eyes wide with curiosity and our hearts beating with excited nerves.

There’s this connection of chemistry and the language of eyes, like I can read the flickers and shifts within you and they are weather, phenomena that alters my own interior environments. The smell or something of you enters my bloodstream so that your desire becomes my own and in an Ouroboros of intoxication, I want you to feel good so that I can feel your feeling of it.

It’s so cold outside and when you tell me of that haunting wind that blows, I want to wrap myself around you or lay myself on top of you like my cat does in winter. I want to create a shelter of warmth and love and protect you like the precious thing I perceive you to be. I know I’m only one small creature and that nobody can ever be truly safe but I hope, at least, I can offer you a little warmth to help sustain that beautiful glow.

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Ember

At some point almost every night, my giant, emotional, weighty puffball of a cat will make a little whirring beep sound at me which is her request that I lift the blankets and allow her onto my chest. Almost always, I acquiesce and, purring loudly, she climbs aboard, crushing my boobs until she is comfortably lying down.

She’s a big girl, Dicey, and the slightest movement will cause her to flop down sideways where I will ease her into a comfortable position with her head on my arm and her legs draped around my body in a sort of cuddle. There she will remain, impossibly, luxuriously soft and with a purr that crackles like a campfire and we will both drift into a blissful slumber of interspecies love until I either move her because I have lost circulation to my arm or she decides that she has tired of me and leaves. Sometimes, Wes, my husband, will join the cuddle and that will be almost more love than my chest can contain.

Once in a while, Dicey will become violently enraged by some movement I have made or some dream she has had and then she will attack me with terrifying ferocity which ultimately gets her propelled off the bed followed by a loud “FUCK YOU CUNT” which will not disturb Wes from his sleep because he is acclimatised to these night dramas.

Despite her violent outburst, I love that cat immensely and often reflect on the transient beauty of our time together, for her lifespan is so much shorter than mine and when she passes, only Wes and my hearts will truly break as our little family loses a precious member. Her existence, like ours, is temporal, a tiny ember of warm life in an impossibly vast universe, shortly we will all flicker out and memories of us will soon vanish also. Her, us, love. All of it will end.

I feel tiny pangs of the pain and sorrow of that cold, indifferent future reality and I perceive our current reality of love and warmth and comfort and sweetness as nothing short of miraculous, delicate, precious. Such an unlikely, glowing, ephemeral experiential jewel. Life and love a flower that blooms and withers in the course of a single day.  We will end but for the most microscopic of moments, we get to exist. For the most microscopic of moments, we get to love. I count my blessings. I see the beauty.

Grey Matters

The other night I had a dream where I pity fucked an awkward, unattractive man from Instagram who then proceeded to stalk me through a jungle. We wound up in a KFC together where I ordered a fish burger which he fucked into my cunt. He then lifted me into a curled up ball in his arms and offered my KFC fish burger vagina to the other customers who were entirely disinterested. I was mildly embarrassed and repulsed which really, is about the level of discomfort I’d perhaps feel in such a social situation. I’ve experienced worse.

I’ve been paying more attention to my dreams lately as I become close to someone who seems to enjoy hearing what happens inside my head when I slumber. This experience reminds me of a lover I once had who liked it when I would describe the kaleidoscopic images of crabs, coral, rubber toys, insects, cutlery and so on which plays in my head when I am exhausted, overstimulated and falling asleep. He would keep me half conscious, insisting that I use words to let him into the psychedelic theatre embedded in my skull. It made me feel special, like I had something to offer. Currency, he made me feel like I had currency. Shame about the time he was so drunk and tried, very clumsily, to rape me. It wasn’t traumatic, he was too drunk and utterly unsuccessful but it hurt my heart nonetheless and ended that connection we had.

But I do like it when people care about the things inside my mind. Like the time my husband heard me sleep talking and he was so smitten with what I said that he stayed awake reciting it in his mind until he had memorised my words to share with me in the morning: “The cliché of an old man sitting in a bathtub, eating a gobstopper and just watching you.”

It makes me feel so much love, it does, when they so badly want to inhabit my grey matter and see the world from my perspective. Because that’s how I love, too, greedy to climb inside, greedy to share and see what it is that you’re looking at and how and why.

The Shape I Am

_MG_7556-Edit(I wrote this in August last year for an artistic feminist porn project that I shot to come out late this year with Post Reverie but I thought I’d post it here too because… because writing this felt important at the time. Because it’s intense and personal and that is important. The photo is one I took awhile back.)

I want to find words that consolidate all the pieces of who I am and what I desire, I want to use language to pin myself down and hold myself still so that we can spend some time together. But isn’t the reality of the thing that we are all phenomena in flux? Shifting somethings consisting of chemistry, biology, shapes, patterns, atoms. As soon as I believe I perceive the shape of myself, it begins to melt into something else.

But in this current moment, the shape I am is probably this. This 33 year old female thing with hair she feels is too thin and eyes that can’t see too far, with heavy breasts that men suck the nipples of for too long, an arse she likes to spread open and a cunt that she has lasered the hair off because the feeling of permanent pornographic exposure arouses her and because she likes the subtle sensations of her girlfriend’s tongue.

That shape calls itself “me”, “I” and a few different names depending on the context. So this is me. I am a creature, a thing of meat and flesh in flux, morphing and shifting as time passes through me. And what do I like? What do I like? How can I expect to solidify my sexual identity when nothing else stays still? I cannot. But the moment I say that, it feels as meaningless as everything and I feel mute and unable to connect or communicate. So I find my definitions in common themes and currents and stories of where I’ve been and how I’m seen. I start to say “I am”.

My cultural context is that I am an outsider. I’ve wrapped myself in words like “polyamorous, kinky, sex worker, slut”, I inhabit the periphery of society with other words like “disabled, artist, queer, woman”. My cultural context is that I am an insider. Existence has arbitrarily granted me privileges of education, relative wealth, the colour of my skin and the dumb luck of being born into a time and place where I can express my notions of myself without being stoned to death.

I am monstrous feminine and devious perversion, an abject other protected by a thin veneer of respectability and the tiny smidge of extra freedom allowed to artists. Words are used to tame, “eccentric, quirky, strange” and alleviate the fears my difference arouses. Strict, paternalistic, dictatorships are right to distrust and restrict the freedom of anyone whose existence subverts the dominant and comforting paradigm, we reveal the horrifying, chaotic truth of reality – that the only truth is change. I am cute and small, I am gigantic and terrifying.

I am a filthy whore who is familiar with the feeling of choking on cock while drool runs down her chin and neck. I am an insatiable slut who eats pussy like she is starving, pushing her entire face into the labia as if she is trying to merge with it. I am a wild thing that craves the calming catharsis of violent beatings and a hand around my throat. I am a beautiful animal who wears colours that stimulate her salivary glands and low cut tops to attract the attention of potential mates. I am a sweaty old pervert who sits at home wearing ugly stained pyjamas and masturbates to porn she finds morally questionable.

I am soft. My physicality and my sensitivity. I wish more lovers would tell me they love my belly the way I love my belly. I’ve never wanted it to be flat. I am strong. Living is hard work that eventually destroys every single being. I am hurt. I am angry. I am furious. I am fucking furious.

For a little while, I played at being property. I gave myself over entirely to another, to my Dom. I let him dictate how I dressed, who I fucked, how I was fucked. With my consent, he beat me, he berated me, he violated me and he loved me. I loved him. I was intoxicated by the intensity of it all, the humiliation, the adoration. I was shocked at the depths of my emotional entanglement with him, when he threatened to have his property tattooed, I was horrified at the knowledge that I would probably acquiesce. Head in the toilet, mouth full of his piss, licking his horrible friend’s balls and altering my entire identity to suit his whims, I was addicted to the dark music of this subterranean microcosm we had constructed. I found myself traversing territories with few other tourists and we touched upon private vulnerabilities and taboos that I may only ever carry internally, until they fade and fall away from memory. For the entirety of that time, I invested my identity into a single word… “submissive”.

That thing we had, that intoxicating, magical, horrible thing… it ended suddenly, violently. It ended well before its time. We should have had many more years yet, we should have watched each other grow old and so I am left with the feeling of carrying around an open wound that leaves me howling. Now I have a knowledge that sex can leave me utterly drunken and immersed and so I feel a new fury at him for destroying the precious thing we had because yes, I blame him completely. Trust is slow to build, fundamentally important and so easy to exterminate. So lately… I feel rage. At him. At everyone. At the sort of selfishness, greed and fear which is causing the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and the destruction of every little thing that is beautiful and strange and precious and will never exist again. At the ugly, hateful selfishness that destroyed us.

Fuck.

It hurts.

The thing that’s hard to express, however, is that rage is its own sort of intoxicant. I am flirting with my anger and my hurt, attempting to find a way into it that will allow me to harness this wild new energy and channel it into my own agendas. Into a new sort of strength and power and sex that I can invest into other loves. I’m painting more and just recently, I beat a man and sunk my teeth so deeply into his skin that the marks were purple. The sound I made while doing it was the same bellow of animal fury I used to make when my Dom would painfully penetrate me. And then the man fucked me and we made sure that it hurt in all the right ways. I always want it to hurt.

The next night, my girlfriend ordered me to sit still on her bed. She covered my head with a pillowcase and violently pushed a butt plug into my arse so that it actually bled a little which, of course, I like. She then brutally fucked me with a strap-on and the combination of the plug in my arse and her cock in my cunt which is relatively small and tight caused me to scream and cry and cum loudly and violently. She is brilliant, that beautiful, glowing woman who I love and I was so grateful to discover that I can still lose myself in the sublime, ugly violence of sex. And that somewhere in that lies a thread of fury.

It’s new to me, this anger stuff. I don’t yet have the stories and words to define or explain it. All I know is that it feels big and important. He ignited this fury, that stupid, wonderful man I loved. Love. Will probably always love. He unlocked the filthy whore inside me and for that I will be eternally grateful to him. He also gifted me with his rage but I don’t want mine to be mean, petty and uncontrolled like his, I want mine to be brilliantly radiant. And I want to stay soft, radically soft. And I want to stay kind, furiously kind. His sort of anger destroys worlds, I hope that my sort of anger will protect them.

My collision with that man who I love caused a nuclear explosion and the effects were devastating and almost fatal. But now strange new flowers are growing in the altered landscape of my self-perception and their scent intrigues me. I am beautiful, ugly, monstrous feminine and lately as I hold up every single part of myself with curiosity and pride, I feel like maybe I am really fucking powerful.

A lazy form of grief

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I’ve been listening to Tara Brach’s incredible three part series of talks “Freedom From Othering: Undoing the Myths that Imprison Us”. In part 2, she quotes a line from a Nicole Kidman movie that made me feel like I was being punched in the chest.

“Vengeance is a lazy form of grief.”

Brach suggested that the reasons we might decide a person is wrong or bad is because it is a defensive stance that masks deeper feelings of vulnerability, of hurt. In fact, I already knew that because in recent times, I had to cultivate an artificial sort of hatred within myself towards two people I loved. I cultivated this hate in order to create the sort of boundaries, safety and distance that I needed from those people who I’d loved deeply but who were no longer emotionally safe for me during the biggest crisis point in my life. Since then, I have experienced a childish frustration within myself because I did not believe they were behaving in ways that were right, or kind, or good. And the honest truth is that these stories about their bad, hurtful behaviour were playing in my head on repeat. No matter how much effort I made to process, to meditate on forgiveness, on compassion, no matter what magic rituals I undertook to move on and let go… in any moment when my emotions were just a little shaky, I would be right back to ruminating. It felt like my brain was stuck and I was sick and bored of these emotions. I am sick and bored of those emotions.

In Brach’s talk, we were invited to investigate our feelings towards a person who we had placed in our mind as a “bad other” and the reasons we might do that. We were told to look beyond the surface of our anger and disgust with them to the soft place, the truth of our feelings towards them. This wasn’t difficult at all for me, my carefully constructed hate was like the thinnest membrane spread protectively across something deep, almost unfathomably deep.

When you strip away the storylines, all that is left is the truth of our hearts, an animal, vulnerable, child’s need for love and as I pushed through that membrane and into the murky depths of things that hurt, a voice within me cried:

“Why did you hurt me? I thought that you loved me! Why? I thought you loved me! Why?”

I collapsed on the floor where, for a few minutes, I allowed myself an ugly, loud, childish sobbing. I allowed myself to whisper “why?” over and over in the pitiful, superstitious hope for an answer I’d never receive. Then that thing happened that I learned to do last year where I just thought “Enough.” And just… turned the emotion off.

I don’t like that. I don’t this new skill, this ability to go numb and disconnect from my emotions. One of the biggest reasons that I realised I needed to leave him was because, in order to be around him, I was having to switch off my emotions for fear of his disgust. And then I just kept those emotions switched off in order to just… cope. Survive. Live. But as Brene Brown says, if you want to do more than just survive, if you want to thrive and live wholeheartedly, you cannot selectively numb because when you numb your capacity for pain, you also numb your capacity for joy.

I believe this to the marrow of my bone and so I continually strive to allow myself my emotions. Not to get caught up in the stream of them, but to simply honour their transient presence and allow them to flow through me. And so I’ve been turning things back on lately. Processing. Letting myself feel through what I need to feel through. It’s frustrating work, I am tired of my heartbreak and bored of the ways my brain still obsesses over hurt that happened many months ago. But I get it, I get that it won’t go away through sheer force of will, instead I need to grow with and through it. I need to honour my heartbreak and past experiences, even as I continue to move forward.

I loved him so much. I loved her so much. Life is long, hurt happens. I do feel myself moving on but… but when I stop numbing, I am faced with the truth; I still love him. I still love her. So much. Neither are in my life anymore and the part of me that clings, that wants everything to stay the same, that struggles with loss and the ugly sadness of life… that part wants to hear their laughter and to wrap my arms around them and feel the glow of the love we once shared. I miss the way her eyes went wide with the wonder of the world. And fuck… I miss the way he would whisper “you’re the love of my life” in my ear. I miss his whisper with an intense sorrow that doesn’t seem to lessen as time goes by.

So I guess that once someone occupies my heart, they will always be there. And perhaps I will always see things that make me think of them and bring the taste of tears into the back of my throat. But when I let myself feel those things… they pass through me. They don’t pass permanently but they do not dominate with their original intensity. And allowing myself to connect to them, as painful as they are, is also allowing me to connect more deeply to every other intense sort of emotion.

I suppose this is what acceptance is. I am lonely. I am loved. I am heartbroken. I am joyful. I am slowly building a collection of scars both tangible and intangible and they are evidence of a life lived bravely and fully.

I had hoped to hate those who I felt wounded by because that strategy seemed safe and easy. But it doesn’t work for me. I allow myself my anger, yes and I know my boundaries, what behaviours I will and will not accept from the people I keep close to me… but just because they are no longer in my life, it doesn’t mean my heart has closed. My beautiful, broken, hurting, happy heart.

The harder task is wishing them joy. My sense of hurt still runs deep enough that a part of me wants them to suffer because a part of me feels they never learned any lesson from the hurt they “caused” me. That child crying “why?” and wanting the world to be simple and just. But I know everything is more complex than that and so when I go even deeper than my hurt, I can access a place where I genuinely wish them well. And I do. When I allow myself to accept just how much I still love them… I genuinely wish them well.

And that’s what I want. Love is hard work and anger is an important emotion to understand, honour and work with… but not hate. I reject hate. It’s just not for me. It’s lazy and ineffective. And so the process of moving forward isn’t a straight line but circuitous. And that’s just how it is and so that’s ok.

Daring to Love

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My love,

I’ve been thinking of you while I navigate the world with a broken heart.

We are phenomena – a combination of processes, electrical signals and chemical reactions combined into conscious creatures in a constant state of negotiation with the reality we inhabit utilising our limited tools of perception. We are animals who name ourselves. We are weird, scared, lonely, lovely little miracles.

Our ancient drives are self-reproduction as a battle cry against mortality which manifests as self-obsession and a desire for confirmation of our own existence. And so we seek love with the hopes that it will mean permanence and protection from the only constant which is change. But love, to our horror, has the very opposite effect of comforting us because love challenges us. The process of opening to another changes us. Our consciousness, our habits of thought, the phenomena of “us” becomes permanently altered by the phenomena of “them”. It’s like the act of intimate contact is a merging of atoms and electricity so that parts of them float within us for the rest of our short and hard and beautiful lives.

Intimacy is a coalescence, a vulnerability, an invitation of other into self. It is an act of enthusiastic and terrifying consent – “I love you, please come inside” and once we let someone inside, the shape of us, whatever that is, is forever altered. Their colours and textures permanently tint and transform our own in ways that ensnare us in thrilled awe.

You changed me and you will remain inside me until this thing I call myself falls apart.

Contact between self and other is never easy. In our desperation for comfort and stability in a reality where the only truth – impermanence – terrifies us, we desperately cling to our fixed ideas, our fixed identities, because this comforts us. Love, that abject state of gaping wide open, confronts us to the core.

Loving you scared me like the realisation of the vastness of space and the finality of death.

When two conscious beings collide, the friction, the tension of phenomena meeting phenomena is alchemical, a birthing of alien landscapes sparkling with crystalline creations, populated with strange new flora and fauna and marred occasionally with sites where the act of impact has become violent. Blackened landscapes caused by natural disasters, forest fires and comet collisions.

When two phenomena learn to co-exist and navigate their collisions with grace, the blackened landscapes become places of rejuvenation and renewal, together you establish and nurture delicate new life forms in the landscape named “hurt” and the plant life is stories about regained trust and personal growth.

Loving you made me feel alive and brilliant and free, like the beauty of the desert sand dunes we ran across, like the stars we looked sideways into, like the filthy way that we fucked among the flies. It painted new colours and patterns on my skin, it made me beautiful. When you whispered “I’ve got you, babe” I fell into those words with the grateful, unbelievable softness of trust.

But then there are the less natural disasters. The nuclear reactions. And a nuclear reaction is different. This is when consciousness becomes aggravated at the discomfort of difference and begins to act in violent defensiveness, sending out antibodies to destroy the other within its system using whatever means necessary. Love’s immune system attacks itself and the self sickens, the landscape becomes toxic. This is neurosis, violence and abuse and it is destructive, it is dangerous.

Without maintenance and care, what rapidly results is a landscape devastated beyond two human animal’s capacities to repair. This landscape becomes expansive and blackened, the poison begins to intrude even on the beautiful spaces and the life within it becomes decrepit. This is a terrible place for an animal to find itself in and so sometimes, in a desperate act of self-preservation, a creature must tear itself from its entanglement from another.

Loving you broke my heart too many times. Loving you nearly broke me. I wish you’d accepted just how unhealthy, how cruel, how violent your words, unquestioned thoughts, assumptions and habits were. I wish you’d valued softness over hardness, kindness over rightness, maybe then we’d have stood a chance, maybe then I could have mustered the bravery to try and trust you again… but it’s too late now. Our time has passed into the past and I’m slowly letting go of my anger and sorrow and regret.

Slowly. Sometimes I still burn with a violent fury at you for ever making me feel so small. Sometimes it still really hurts and yes, I blame you for things falling apart. But I’m letting go of that hurt. Slowly.

When a separation happens, a rift, a tearing apart, often suddenly and violently… it leaves us heartbroken. Heartbreak is… it is the feeling of your skin and insides dragging behind you in tendrils that float and ache and hopelessly reach for the other being they had attached themselves to who is no longer there. Heartbreak is a howl of despair.

I’m sorry I left, my love. I will be forever sorry about that because I thought, I truly thought… I thought we would watch one another grow old. But I’ve had to let go of that dream. Nothing has ever been harder. Nothing.

For a while this violent disentanglement leaves us broken and shut down, for some time we close off and vow never to open ourselves up ever again. We become a small, bitter, angry, sad, closed consciousness who doubles down on the defensive behaviours that cause our perceptions to narrow, our connections with the world to vanish and so we become deeply lonely creatures.

But my love, it doesn’t have to be that way. If we open to our pain, our hurt, our deep and agonising vulnerability, we realise that though we have lost the thing we had, we had it once and now it is forever entangled within the phenomena of the thing that we call ourselves. And we can access that and we can carry it into the future to make our world more beautiful.

It will never be the same because nothing in the history of existence ever is. But each thing that is now comes from the thing that was before. And so… you will forever be part of the big story I tell myself about myself. The good parts and the bad, I’ll wear them both, I’ll honour my love and my broken heart and I hope you will too.

Love is the stuff of braveness and openness and vulnerability and metamorphosis. Joy and pain are inseparable truths. The other truth is change. But when I loved you, I loved you forever.

My heart is broken but it is also shifting into new spaces and shapes. And as I move through my small life and realise that even with you gone, you have left your mark, I am utterly grateful for the collision of us because I love the textures and tones of what I am now. As dangerous as you were for me… you were magical too.

You can never have something back once it has passed. But the fact of it ever existing is a miracle and that is the most beautiful and comforting truth I know.

Thank you for daring to love me. We were so brave to try.

Disability and Love

Recently I was talking with some women who have chronic health issues and though our health problems manifest differently, we all spoke of having similar insecurities around talking too often or too openly about our troubles. These insecurities come in many different flavours; we the chronically unhealthy are afraid of being perceived of as whingy, boring, pitiable, crazy, energy vampires… the list goes on. Because of these fears, we are constantly engaging in a juggling act between our inner turmoil and our outward appearance – from one minute to the next, we are weighing up whether or not we should speak up about our struggles.

Personally, for every one time I decide to talk about my experiences with chronic pain, mental illness and disability, there are twenty times I keep quiet and hide how I’m feeling so that people won’t tire of me. I often challenge myself to speak publicly of my struggles because I know that when others do the same, it makes me feel less alone and better about myself and I believe this encourages compassion and connection. I have seen the evidence of this because every time I speak candidly of my problems, I will be the recipient of a multitude of messages from others who are going through their own trials and who are grateful for my honesty. Conversely, I know that if I speak of my problems a little too often, people will experience compassion fatigue and start tuning out, unfollowing me on Facebook and even resenting me. This is not paranoia, this is the lived reality of many who have walked the chronic condition walk and we have all experienced the exasperation of someone who is sick of our complaints. Even if that someone is simply ourselves.

Recently a friend sat on my couch drinking tea and, through tears, she spoke of her struggles with chronic pain. She confessed to frequently choosing to make the decision to smile through her suffering when in the company of others because she didn’t want to lose their love. She said she felt that was probably a bit of a dark and bleak outlook but I told her that I do the exact same thing and do not feel any shame for sometimes choosing to conceal my misery. Why? Because, to some degree, I am in pain almost all of the time but I don’t always want to talk about it, nor be viewed as someone to be pitied. Because sometimes I like to pretend, just for a while, that I am able bodied and as capable as I’d like to be. Because often I am miserable and happy in the exact same moment.

But most of all… because I need love.

We need love. Humans are social animals and love gives us an evolutionary advantage – love forges the bonds that incentivise us to look out for one another. Within a capitalistic and individualistic society, we create and revere a mythology of the self-sufficient and self-made person but the moment you examine that idea, it disintegrates like the illusion it is. No man is an island, this is so obvious that it’s cliché and yet we forget it is true.

My disability makes me acutely aware of the interdependency of humans and, well, all life on this planet. I have many needs; food, shelter, medicine, art, fun… and since I don’t qualify for any disability benefits in this country I am not a citizen of, all my needs are paid for by people who love me. Learning to be comfortable and at peace with this fact of my life is an ongoing process and it is still easy for me to fall into a spiral of shame about the perceptions I sometimes hold of myself as a worthless bludger. I counter this negative self-image with evidence to the contrary – to those that support me, in return I offer the things that I can, housework, food, adventures, sex, art, comedy, connection, love. Perhaps my acute knowledge of my own need has made me particularly talented at the last two, like they are skills I have honed out of necessity. If I love you well, you will love me well and then we can really take care of each other. Not co-dependent but interdependent.

Except… sometimes it feels imbalanced. Chronic pain and health concerns often preoccupy me and sometimes leave me feeling so deeply frustrated, depressed and miserable that the offerings I make in exchange for love seem lesser, stunted as they can be by the exhaustion and bitterness I sometimes feel. It’s hard being in chronic pain and I’m harder to love when I am in chronic pain. When someone you love goes through a personal tragedy, it is easy to support them because you know at some point there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, that they will most likely be better someday. With chronic health problems, there is not necessarily a point where the person gets better and things get easier (though certainly we develop the most incredible coping strategies!) So much of living with chronic pain is facing the same problems day in day out with no necessary end in sight. This is exhausting and also incredibly tedious. It tests all but the strongest of bonds.

This is not to say I am unlovable. In fact, I am blessed with a whole lot of love in my life and like I said I work hard to earn and sustain that love. However, only a few of my truly closest people get exposed to the complete truth of me – that sometimes loving me is a lot of work. I cry, a lot. I hurt, a lot. I feel, a lot. For the last couple of years, I’ve battled suicidal ideation and pretty serious mental health problems as a direct result of my physical health struggles. Often, I am insecure. Often I am lost. Often, I am exhausted. Sometimes loving me is a lot of work.

But, I repeat, I strive to make it worthwhile and I have been told it is. And lately I believe it. Lately I can see that my life experiences have given me the ability to throw myself into joy, when I receive it, with the wild abandon of someone who doesn’t take joy for granted. When I feel freedom I feel it with an exuberance and intensity that I believe is infectious. Living on the periphery of society has the incredible effect of making me less concerned with abiding by its rules, rules which I have forgotten or never learned in the first place. My own struggles have given me a deep supply of compassion for the ways other people can struggle and I believe this has made me into an open minded and caring person. Finally, I love with the intense gratitude of someone who knows exactly what a gift of time, energy and vulnerability it is. I do not take love for granted.

Sometimes when friends read the things I write online, they exclaim to me that they had no idea about my struggles. They tell me, with kindness and generosity that makes me adore them, that I do not have to hide it from them but the honest truth is… I do. Sometimes I do. And I want to. See, the thing is, if I complained to you whenever I hurt, I’d be a cracked record that you’d soon tire of listening to. This is not your fault, or mine, this is just the truth. Chronic health problems are boring, tedious and exhausting. If I showed you how I’m really feeling all of the time, if I let you know every moment when I am weakened, you wouldn’t want to be around me. And that’s fair because you need energy to fight your own battles. My struggles might be greater than some able bodied people, but that is, to some degree, something I have to face on my own. This is the juggling act we all have to do between external connection/interdependence and independence/emotional resilience.

Recently, a new love came into my life and as I came to love and trust him deeply, I allowed him to see the truth of me. We loved one another passionately but witnessing my truth was too much for him to sit with and so, one night, to diffuse his own discomfort, he used my greatest vulnerabilities as a weapon. In anger, he thoroughly shamed me for the ways in which I depend on other people both financially and emotionally. His words were vicious and personal in ways that I am not comfortable writing about publicly and they continued in smaller doses over the next several months. These words had me feeling small and pathetic, precise as they were in their intent to wound me. I was looking at myself through his eyes and what I saw was a parasite. Over time, I overcame the deep feelings of humiliation and shame by realising that though there was some truth in his words because he knew me well, mostly they said more about his internal landscape than mine. Having done the work to overcome that hurt and having extracted myself (with a great deal of sadness and heartache) from that relationship, I am now feeling stronger than I have in a very long time. But it wasn’t easy.

What got me out of that dark place was love. Love from my friends, family and other partners but most importantly, love from myself. In order to survive one of the moments in my life when I was most vulnerable, when I saw my very existence hanging by a tenuous thread as my suicidal ideation reached an unbearable pitch, I had to take myself on a crash course in self compassion and learn to love myself. I talked endlessly to people who suffered from a multitude of health struggles and was struck by the similarities of our experiences and as my heart expanded with compassion for others, so too it grew for myself. I got counselling from a lovely therapist who spoke my language. I went on SNRIs to cope with the clinical depression I realised I was struggling with. I sought wisdom in the written words of others and my bibles were “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown, “Option B” by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, “How to be Sick” by Toni Bernhard and perhaps most influential of all, I am finding myself being deeply affected and influenced by the words on compassion, suffering and kindness from Tibetan Buddhist, Pema Chödrön.

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

― Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

I stopped wanting to die when I started to believe I am a creature that is worthy of love, not in despite of my struggles but because of them. Because of the ways they make me the person I am today. I stopped wanting to die when I stopped feeling like a parasite and truly embraced the beliefs I’ve always held but never applied to myself; humans are social animals. The very foundations of our evolution as a species have been innovation, intelligence, diversity and in my opinion most importantly, interdependence. That’s why ants dominate underground and that’s why we dominate on land. None of us exist without support from others. None of us. None. Though I might not have the normal symbols of status and power to offer loved ones – money, a career, regular “achievements”, my offerings are, nonetheless, precious to the people who know me and who love me.

Because I am not a parasite. Chronically ill and disabled people are not parasites. We are in configurations of mutualistic symbiosis with those we love and we have much to offer the rest of the world too. Though the things we offer might be quieter, less immediately obvious, they are there and to the ones who adore us, we are irreplaceable.

So yes, sometimes loving me means extra work because I have a body that is prone to failing and that means I have to work harder to inhabit my flesh. But my capacity for giving love is momentous and now, as I learn what it truly means to love myself, I know I am worth the work.