I Forgive Him I Don’t Forgive Him

Thoughts on Forgiveness

I’ve had some recent breakthroughs with my amazing psychologist and conversations with amazing partners in regards to forgiveness. I’m really understanding that when it comes to forgiving someone who has done something horrible to you, it’s a process and should never be a requirement. Often, when someone has deeply wounded us with their bad behaviour, we need to be allowed to be furious with them, disgusted with them, we need the freedom to never have to forgive them. I have a feeling telling victims that they should forgive those who have hurt them has the real potential of inhibiting their healing process because it is projecting your own morals and ideals onto the ways in which they work through their trauma.

Forgiveness is a deeply personal and internal process, forgiveness may mean never forgiving the adult who left you wounded and scarred, it may only mean forgiving the hurting child in them who left you wounded. I believe that healing requires the freedom to never have to forgive someone when they have done deep and violent damage and then left you to pick up the pieces alone. Forgiveness cannot be demanded of the victim who is left to deal with the aftermath of bad behaviour. Only the victim can feel forgiveness, if and when they are ready. They may never be ready because some hurts go deep and some last a lifetime.

It’s also important to recognise that forgiveness is not about forgetting – some things you will never forget; they leave you with sore spots and triggers that colour the ways you navigate future relationships and so forgetting really isn’t a possibility.

My personal forgiveness has come in waves. In the early days, I felt too much of it and needed to access my rage, my disgust, my loathing. When the trauma I experienced as a result of emotional abuse left me with a complex soup of emotional problems, I needed access to my truth. I’ve been through much of that process and am now at a point in my healing and moving on where I feel forgiveness and sadness for the person who really hurt me coming back into my heart but even this forgiveness comes in waves; some days I still loathe the bastard, others I only wish him well.

Early on, forgiveness was unhealthy for me because it contained the risk of me returning to the person who hurt me and not giving my trauma the safety and space it needed. In love as I was with my ex, I needed hate and rage to keep me safe. Now, having been through that process, I can feel the same love towards him that I feel for all hurting creatures. I never wish to see him again for as long as I live, but I can now access the sorrow I feel for all beautiful things which trauma, pain and anger destroy.


Reflections on Broken Love

The other day, I showed my new Dom a love letter that I had asked my previous Dom to write me towards the end of our relationship. I’d asked for this because after my ex Dom had spent so much time telling me all the reasons he thought I was a piece of shit, I needed to find a way to believe it when he also constantly told me I was the love of his life. He wrote the love letter, as requested, but it didn’t help. In fact, it made me feel worse as I felt it read like a shopping list of things I gave him, rather than a love for who and what I am.

The reason I showed it to my new Dom is that I realised my experiences of emotional abuse with my previous Dom had fundamentally shaken my ability to trust the words “I love you”. When my first Dom said “I love you” I had believed and felt those words with all my heart, and so when he said “you’re just a worthless piece of shit to me right now” I also felt those words as truth. And then when he was absent and distant while I was suicidal and traumatised from the experience in New York, his “I love you” felt empty. The words “I love you” became something I could no longer trust.

When I left my first Dom, people were telling me he didn’t love me and this became the story I told myself for quite some time. The other story I told myself, to protect myself and distance myself, was that he was a hateful, spiteful, cruel and cold bastard who was fundamentally incapable of love. This perception of him helped create enough coldness and distance in my heart for me to connect to the rage and disgust that would protect me long enough to help me heal. I needed, for a long time, to hate him. Truly, deeply, hate him.

But recently that hate has started to feel like a rut I’m trapped in. Recently, writing more publically about my experiences with my emotionally abusive ex Dom has shifted something in me, like clearing out the cobwebs. I’ve felt more space inside myself and a desire to move forward, especially as I fall more deeply in love with my two current partners. I want to move forward into life with my two loves and start to leave my old pains in the past as much as possible (though I never want to entirely let them go as my own experiences have left me with a wisdom and compassion for other people that I would never trade away). So perhaps that’s also why I showed my new Dom my old love letter.

“I can see why this letter left you unhappy,” he said. “It made me feel sad for both of you. I can see that he did really love you.”

I started crying. “Thank you for saying that. I didn’t know how much I needed to hear that. He did love me. We really did love each other. He hated me and he loved me.”

“I can see that. And it makes sense. It must have been so painful when you left him, you must have felt so much grief.”

I started sobbing. “Yes I did. It was the most fucking painful decision I’ve ever made in my life. And everyone around me just hated him and was glad I left him and that’s good because I needed to leave him – his behaviour was dangerous for me. But my heart was completely fucking broken and I never really got sympathy for that.”

I sobbed and was hugged. I felt, for the first time in a long time, the memories of all the good times with my first Dom flooding back into my heart and this time they no longer felt dangerous, like they could hurt me. For the first time in over two years, those memories felt safe. And beautiful. And I felt my heart break in sorrow for my first Dom who truly did love me but who was too hurt and broken inside to love me properly.

The next day, I told my psychologist about my experience. He talked about different types of love, he mentioned infatuation, lust; early stage types of love. But this didn’t connect with me. I told him that I actually felt myself and my Dom had formed a very deeply bonded sort of love. All up, we had spent three years together, slowly revealing our deep traumas, our vulnerabilities, learning to talk, learning to love. I felt we had truly loved one another, and to heal I needed that truth acknowledged.

My psychologist said he didn’t like to diagnose people he’s never met but we both had independently come to suspect that my ex might have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). He said that when he saw clients with NPD, his heart broke for them because it is such a profoundly difficult disorder for people to have. Now please take everything I am about to say with a grain of salt as I am not a trained psychologist, only a regular person with an interest in how people work. Disclaimer aside, here are my thoughts on trauma, schemas and NPD. As far as I understand, NPD stems from childhood traumas and dysfunctional schemas that cause them to have a deep belief in their own fundamental unlovableness. They compensate for this by becoming self-aggrandising, ego-centric and superficial with their relationships. Intimacy is profoundly difficult because when someone loves them, it confronts their deeply held belief that they are worthless.

When we are children, we are creatures of ego. When children are traumatised and abused, they feel it must be because of something about them. If a child is neglected and deprived of love, they may come to believe that this is because they are fundamentally unlovable. People with narcissistic personality traits were often deprived of love in their childhood and so they had to be self-sufficient from the start. They may come to view their self-sufficiency as a sign of their superiority to others. I suspect this may in fact be the reason that so many men seem to have traits of NPD and go on to become abusive – because we, as a culture, tend far too often to deprive young boys of their need for love, safety and a place to be vulnerable. A culture that doesn’t let boys be soft and loved is like a factory that produces narcissistic, abusive men.

The view we have of ourselves is largely formed in our childhood, and if our childhood didn’t contain the love, consistency, validation and safety we needed, we form faulty views about ourselves, or “schemas”. These schemas are powerful; they are deeply held and are very difficult to challenge or shift. They are not impossible to work on but it requires a lot of work, a lot of therapy, a lot of patience and a lot of mistakes.

If your childhood schemas include the idea that you are worthless and unlovable, then when somebody loves you it puts these schemas into a profound state of shock and confusion. Schemas will try anything to maintain their “truth” and so they will tell you that the person who loves you must have something wrong with them. And when that person doesn’t behave the way you think they should, this will put you into a critic mode; a horrible, judgemental, cruel critic mode. You will start to find all the things “wrong” with the person who loves you. And then, if you feel the person who loves you is seeing the real you, the worthless and unlovable you, this will put you into attack mode.

A person with narcissistic traits in attack mode is not a pretty thing. My memories of the man who had held me and whispered “I love you babe” contrast so deeply with my memory of the same person looking at me with pure disgust in his eyes and saying “you’re a worthless piece of shit”. For so long it was impossible for me to understand. Had he tricked me? Was he a sociopath who was incapable of love? Was I insane? Was I a fool for believing him when he said “you’re the love of my life”?

I wasn’t. He did love me. The healthy, evolving, adult in him loved me. The child in him who needs love, like we all do, loved me.

And then… he didn’t love me. When his schemas were triggered, he reverted to a childlike ego state and in that state, he despised me as much as he despised himself. In attack mode, he wanted to destroy me and he used all my vulnerabilities as weapons against me.

So the truth, as I now believe it, is that he loved me and then he didn’t. And then he loved me again but he couldn’t face the consequences of his actions so instead he started to shut down and push me from his heart.

How heartbreaking for both of us. How deeply, fundamentally tragic that his childhood traumas destroyed the beautiful, precious, irreplaceable thing that we had together.

Because it was beautiful. It was imperfect and there were many unhealthy aspects to it which I was not experienced or wise enough to see. But there were so many truly beautiful, profound, bonding moments that we had together. That those beautiful times have forever had a shadow cast upon them is… devastating. It still breaks my heart.

My Forgiveness

About a year ago while I was intoxicated, I sent my ex Dom, who I no longer speak to, a sloppy email telling him that I would never forgive him but that he should forgive himself. However, I said that first he needed to look in the mirror and face the fact of how appalling his behaviour was. I also said a lot of stupid shit about how I was going to become a feminist porn star – ha! I never got a response and to be honest, I would never have sent that email sober.

I never saw him take accountability for his actions and perhaps he never will. This is the reason I had to remove him from my life and this is the reason I needed to connect to my rage and disgust, because he wounded me and then I had to do all the recovery work by myself. Yes, while we were together he had suggested that we get couples therapy, but he expected me to do all the work to find a therapist, and underlying this was his belief that I was overreacting; that dealing with it was my responsibility, not his.

I will never forgive that. I forgive the child he once was who never received the love he needed. I forgive the adult he is who still needs love but may never be capable of holding onto it. I forgive the person who held me in his arms and whispered “babe, I need you.” But I will never forgive the adult who shrugged when I was suicidal, who abandoned me to the trauma he caused me, who said “sorry” but had no idea how little that meant when he continued to justify his behaviour and attack me. The pain of his attacks was tremendous and traumatic but his indifference to my pain in the following months was the most wounding thing of all. That was the biggest betrayal of our love.

This made his words “babe, I’ve got you” hollow and painful.
Now that I can sit with some of the beautiful memories we once shared I can see the complexity of the truth. None of this could come from trying to force myself into a narrative that others felt about how I should relate to my experience, though of course their thoughts, emotions and opinions helped me gain better clarity on my own. Ultimately, I needed ownership over the specificities of my story and the complexities of my truth. None of this can be simplified or put into trite statements about forgiveness.

He loved me, he didn’t love me. I forgive him, I don’t forgive him.

That’s how I feel today. All of this may be different tomorrow.

That’s ok.

Humiliating Need

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Old drawing done in 2004 when I was about 20? More on my website jngaio.com

(Content warning, this writing contains a description of sexual activities done within the context of a D/s relationship where a dynamic of consensual non-consent has been mutually and enthusiastically agreed to.)

What is the feeling I had last night? You forcibly held my legs open and put your tongue to my clit. You know how much I hate that, I’d rather you went right to raping me but instead you are taking your time and doing things to my body that nobody else has, discovering new capacities for sensation that even I was unaware of.

I blink away tears of humiliation. Your tongue flicking on my clit makes me feels good, makes it thicken with arousal and somehow this makes me feel utterly revealed, utterly vulnerable. It’s like you’re learning to play my body better than I can and that makes me feel less powerful than ever. Beatings are one thing, beatings are hard work to take and each one becomes more difficult, more harrowing as I learn that your sadism is as boundless as my masochism, as I learn with sick excited horror that we have so far yet to go. But the more violence I take from you, the more powerful I feel, impressed by myself and my capacity for endurance. You call me a tough bitch and like a child, I feel a swelling of pride.

This is different. This is pleasure. This is the sort my first boyfriend always tried to give me and then cried when he could not, this is the sort of pleasure I thought myself incapable of and believed myself broken. Faulty goods drawn more to pain than pleasure. You call me a sick bitch and I feel seen. But this contact between your tongue and nerve endings in my cunt creates sensations I’ve not noticed before when mashing myself into my vibrator or the beautiful face of a woman. Why is this different? What is happening here? How can pleasure be so much more humiliating than any nasty words you’ve ever said to me?

It’s because you see me and read me more and more clearly. It’s because my ache for you grows every day. It’s because the boundaries between us are dissolving as you not only become accustomed to being entitled to my body but become able to play it, like you’ve been investigating all the places, both internal and external, that constitute who I am. It makes sense to have a good grasp on the workings of your property, to know the value of it, to know what you can do with it. But your discovery of things about me that even I didn’t know… that shocks me to the core and I’m running out of places to hide.

I feel stupid, confused and suddenly, very young. Like a child, embarrassed by the funny “down there” feelings they didn’t realise they could have.

I feel myself close to climax but the performance anxiety of that often shuts me down with men (less so with women) and besides, the intensity of my desire for you makes me feel entirely open, with all my guts to be seen, with all my need for you making me feel helpless in the intensity of my own lust. “I’m yours” I cry “I’m a whore” I moan “I’ll do anything for you.” I mean it. My desire for you is a desire for your lust, your violence, your attention, your love. I’m obsessed with it and will do anything to attain and retain it.

You fuck me for awhile, it feels so desperately, pathetically good to have your cock slipping inside me and pushing so deep that my cervix cramps and at some point I start sobbing and hitting you and screaming that I love you. You hold me and comfort me and we cry together and kiss and exchange many more declarations of love. Then we sleep, you are so exhausted from work, from the world, from survival. I experience a deep protectiveness towards you, a profound, tender love and gratitude that you manage, somehow, to find these pockets of energy, intimacy and connection to share with me. To me, it’s nothing short of miraculous, every second we get together is precious.

Today I lay sick in bed with tonsillitis and a gentle fever. My head is swamped by thoughts of you and my cunt still aches with my constant desire for you so that even the feel of my cotton underwear pushing against it causes an irritation of pleasure. I want you, constantly and so to me you are more powerful than you could possibly realise. Your touch turns me weak, stupid, needy and wet. When I say I am your property, I mean it. When I say I am your whore, I feel it as a deep and fundamental truth about myself.

You see me. You know me. I’m yours. You own me.

2019 Will Be Beautiful

At the start of the year, I made a Spotify playlist called “2018 will be magic”. It was a desire, a decision, a hope. 2017 was a year of trauma, of mental health collapse, of emotional abuse, of the worst sort of suicidal ideation, of conflict, of loss, of feeling the pain was forever and hopelessness was the only truth, of grief, of decisions, of bones and muscles cut, of hope, of hope, of growth, of change, of love.

2018 would be magic, not matter what. Something had shifted within my eternal landscape, with Buddhism teaching me about the ways in which self-awareness and self-compassion compliment one another, with the realisation that generosity, empathy and kindness are not character traits I had to be ashamed of (how strange and sad and sick our society is that somewhere along the line, I eternalised the idea that these traits of mine made me weak) but that if we give our light openly, it only grows. Light only grows.

Emotional abuse combined with chronic pain and depression showed me what the worst sort of self-loathing feels like which nearly culminated in a cessation of my own existence. Learning the skill of self-love was not as a thing of scented candles and Instagram capitalism, but a thing of valuing and caring for oneself with the same compassion and understanding that you would show a dear friend or precious child. Learning the skill of self-compassion taught me to be better at sitting with the pain of others, while also becoming better at understanding my own boundaries and limits of what sort of behaviours I will accept in others. Brene Brown was right, the most empathetic people are the best at practising boundaries. Love the person, don’t love the behaviour.

And I’m learning to practice empathy for my need to hate, also. Learning to value and protect my right to anger. I still think of my ex at times and have these spikes of pain and rage that anyone could ever call me the love of their life and a piece of shit within the same day. I still feel confusion and hurt, sometimes, when a sense memory reminds me of how I felt so utterly alone and abandoned in New York. I still can’t look at photos and footage of the place without feeling nauseous and shaky. One day my heart will heal and let him go entirely, but I am kind to myself about the effects of trauma and if for now, hate is what my heart needs, I hold that emotion gently, carefully, cautiously, examining it, letting myself know what that feeling is and the grief and pain that lies underneath. I honour the child contained in my heart who cannot understand – even long after I feel I’ve processed it on every other level – how eyes that looked at me with love could suddenly burn with disgust and loathing.

2018 would be magic, no matter what. But actually, it’s been the most amazing year of my life so far. There is new love opening up parts of myself that had previously been unexplored and unarticulated, as well as old love deeping, ripening, strengthening. New friendships blooming, others growing as I learn to better open myself to people with personal truth, vulnerability, sublime stupidity and joy. The have been supremely fulfilling artistic collaborations, absurd, colourful, sexy parties and adventures, a reconnection with my love of nature, learning how much I love my friend’s children, exciting new projects on the horizon and clown school.

Holy fuck, clown school. Where I discovered things about my physicality that brought me joy and insight and a love for my body and movement when a lifetime of chronic health conditions had left me feeling disconnected from my body at best and like it was my enemy at worst. Where I learned to be more brave and vulnerable and open to the stuff of myself than I have ever been. Where I learned how to breathe into the energy of a moment, of an audience, of a feeling. Where I learned to take the energy of fear and ride it like a wave. Where I had moments of feeling myself to be utterly fucked up, utterly insane, a complete snivelling, disgusting, abject mess… and instead of hiding away, I stood up in front of my classmates and rode those energies. Not mental illness, not at clown school, just extreme states. Glorious, invigorating, terrifying, exhilarating and addictive extreme states. Clown school, where the teacher confirmed my belief that you can get so much more out of people if you practice empathy, remain open to their energies and critically engage in their art in a way that is generous and open, without treading on their heart and soul. Everyone got a turn to shine at clown school and it further deepened my belief that we shine so much brighter when we shine together.

2018 has confirmed my horror at the capitalistic and individualistic concepts that permeate our culture, attitudes, relationships and souls. It was an antidote to so much of that. It was a year of sharing, of collaborating, of helping and letting myself be helped. It’s been a year of learning all the ways in which I am privileged and how deep the systems of inequality and oppression are and affect so many living beings.  It’s been a year of opening myself, properly, to my joys, pains, fears, darkness, hopes… and of opening myself, properly, to that of others. This process of openness, of not clinging to a fixed identity, of not shutting down to pain or the discomfort of conflict and of growth, it’s a constant one and it requires the right combination of discipline and gentleness. It’s the work of a lifetime, really.

2018 has contained the continual discovery of how my surgeries have transformed my life. The process is imperfect, my structures are still a struggle and the neuropathic pain has become it’s own disease. Nonetheless, my capabilities have been increasing and I have slowly, steadily, been spending more time in my studio. The feelings are mixed, sometimes it’s joy and freedom and an overwhelming sense of gratitude at my unbelievable luck. Other times it’s guilt, anxiety, fear that I’m too far behind my peers after so many lost years, frustration at the ways in which pain still holds me back, fear that I’ll fuck this up and wreck my body again, guilt that I still get depressed and anxious and whingy when my life is so much better than it was. But I breathe, I give myself compassion, I gently move myself back on track. It’s ok, I tell myself, it’s ok.

It’s ok. It’s better than ok. This year has not been without challenges, deep fears, so many tears and I know the way that life works, I know that it isn’t just an upward trajectory. I read the signs in the air, I smell the warnings in the wind and worry for the entire goddamn world. But I’m resolved to keep fighting for the values I have defined for myself, those of light, love, hope and art.

I’ve made myself a new playlist, it’s called “2019 will be beautiful” and it will. No matter what. No matter what waits in store. Even if I have to frame a steaming pile of shit and blood in plastic op-shop gold, 2019 will be beautiful.

Our Tangled Roots

I’m learning on the fly how to hold the pieces of myself together. It’s a skill I’ve never been good at before, I’ve so often crumbled, wilted, broken down, melted down. But now I know it isn’t just about me, now I know the ways in which the architecture of myself is interlocked with the structures of beloved others so that we hold one another up.

Did you know that some trees fuse their roots together? They share information and nutrients and become stronger within this interdependence.

I used to think that I wasn’t important, that my absence would be to the detriment of nobody. Wisdom came when I nearly ended my own existence and was confronted by the tremendous pain of a beloved. Now I can clearly see the way hurt spirals outwards and I feel, as a deep responsibility, the importance of my continual striving to keep myself intact.

Kindness is to never shame those who cannot cease their disintegration. Compassion is to understand the drive towards self-destruction and know it for what it is; the anguish of an animal in acute pain. Pain that may feel utterly inescapable. Pain that may be utterly inescapable.

Do you know that you are important? Perhaps you cannot conceive of the ways in which your existence enriches mine, perhaps you cannot believe that your absence would leave a permanent wound within my chest. Do you know that you are a source of love and light and joy? Do you know that I’m holding the pieces of myself together for you?

Look, can you see it? Love, can you feel it? My roots are fused with yours.

I Wish

I wish I could travel back in time. Back to when you were wide eyed and tiny, back before the world had you so badly battered and bruised. I wish I could hold you in my arms, kiss your sweet forehead, stroke your soft hair and tell you that you’re safe. I wish I could have made you safe, kept you warm, sheltered from what was yet to come.

I wish I could soften the world around you. I would file and smooth the rough edges so they could no longer pierce your skin. I would take away the violent forces of inequality, brutality and modern forms of slavery that suck away your blood, breath, strength and hope. I would take you to an open field and watch you frolic in the daylight. I would strip away my clothes and frolic with you.

I wish that I could shoulder your burdens for you. If only I had a stronger frame with which to carry things, I would take it all off you so that you might experience a lightness so profound that you take to the sky like a butterfly.

Were it an option, I would take a thousand beatings to see you flying free. If I could negotiate with the Gods, I’d offer my soul in exchange for you emancipation.  But, mortal and small, all I can do is hold your beautiful hand and love you with all the things that I am.

Sometimes I feel overwhelming dismay at my own impotence. In the cold reality of existence, the beat of my heart feels like a speck of dust in the face of a tidal wave. Feeble, I feel, foolish. But when my heart pounds and glows just underneath my ribcage, I know it is the only thing I have to give.

Wash

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When he visits me, washing becomes an event. I demand that he scrubs me clean like I’m a naughty toddler. I whine when the water is too hot or too cold and splash about in hopes of getting his shirt wet because I like to make him mad. When he pulls the plug and I watch the water sucked down the drain, I push my arse into the air just asking him to push his fingers inside my holes. When he is away, washing becomes a display. I take photos and videos like a digital siren because I want to remind him of what is here for him. His eyes on me make me feel as if I exist and am beautiful and I am a junkie for his attention.

On my Instagram.