Monthly Archives: September 2013

F*** the F-word: when blind hatred is better than love

Image by ~vissper

I have blogged about forgiveness before. This is a big topic for me, one that keeps coming up again and again, because people hurt other people all the time.

When someone has, metaphorically speaking, stabbed you in the back, you have to deal with it (the situation), then with the person who caused the hurt.

But how do you redefine your relationship with them afterwards? Do you shut them out for good, do you tolerate them but wait for a chance to take revenge, do you say ‘that’s okay’ but secretly hope they’ll die an agonising death with a crippling disease, do you forgive them but stop trusting them altogether, or do you forgive and accept that they are no better nor worse than yourself?

Even though I regularly work on cultivating and practising compassion, I must admit there are times when all this spiritual development stuff feels stifling and unrealistic. I have never purported to be nor do I aspire to be a saint; why should I suffer and exercise self-restraint when I have the option of letting the proverbial dogs loose.

Sometimes,  I feel like shouting “f*** this forgiveness s**t!” Let me hate, hate and hate to my heart’s content; let me spend the rest of my life sticking needles into vodoo dolls and badmouthing you to all your friends because, quite frankly, after what you’ve done to me, you don’t deserve an ounce of my compassion, you f***ing piece of s**t.

There I’ve said it. And, man, does it feel good to degrade someone who has hurt you. And if you happen to have any drinks to hand, chuck that onto them for good measure; choose red wine if you can, because red wine stains. Or coffee, because it will ‘blacken’ them.

All of this has recently gone through my mind – in my imagination. But they were just…thoughts, fantasy. In reality, I was dumbstruck, and disappointed, to discover I could not find in myself enough anger, or any anger for that matter, to enact the scenes above.

Instead I caught myself being enveloped in a dark mantle of sadness. Sorrow is a much quieter sentiment than anger. It descends upon you silently, like a thick fog. It also sticks around for longer than anger, which is more like hot steam that shoots out at high pressure, then evaporates.

I am referring to a real-life situation, where a man had confessed he had acted deceitfully towards me, motivated by egotistical, self-serving reasons. Of course I was shocked, hurt, disappointed, disgusted, all those feelings that go with knowing someone you trusted and liked disrespected you.

I was angry too, I WANTED to be angry, because that’s what you do when your feelings have been hurt. But I was surprised to find the anger was all in my head, not in my heart. How I managed to reach a state of inner peace at such an obviously anger-inducing situation is beyond me.

We talked a little about what would happen next. Could we stay friends or would that be too awkward? I don’t think either of us knew the answer, but, in searching for it, I became aware of a strange dichotomy within me. First, I saw the earthy Me having unkind thoughts, wishing for ‘karma’ retribution, and, this being the age of social media and online connections, making a mental list of the many social networking sites where I would have to ‘unfriend’ him to publicly indicate the breakdown of our relations. We all know how childish and shallow that is, but that is what what emotional, knee-jerk reactions are about.

On another level, I distinctly felt a much ‘wiser’ Me, which remained calm and self-controlled, observing earthy Me having emotional thoughts. It seemed to ‘know’ that none of what had happened was of any importance whatsoever in the bigger scheme of things. That wise Me told me that whether this man and I chose to be friend or foe in this Earth existence didn’t matter, as we were already closely connected before and after, in some kind of spiritual form. It was as if our souls had made a pact to meet and interact in this lifetime because there were things to be learned from each other, and past wounds to be healed.

This discovery astounded me. When did I become so ‘enlightened’ that I can detach myself in this way, think more like spirit than body? When I say ‘detached’ I don’t mean becoming cold. Detaching is about disassociating the pain you feel from your core self, recognising the pain, accepting it, but also ‘knowing’ the pain is just your ego feeling hurt because it did not get what it wanted.

When you take the pain away from a situation, you can see it only as a situation, you can see it for what it is, like a doctor diagnosing a patient. Often you can also see why the person hurt you in the first place, and understand they were fighting a battle of their own.

Everyone's fighting a battle
After years of gradually losing my real sense of self within an unhappy marriage, having made the unfortunate decision to get married anyway when my instincts KNEW it wasn’t right for me, I am now determined to live my new single’s life in a more ‘centred’ way, in touch with my gut instincts at all times. But living and always acting from your gut can be frighteningly powerful. Because your gut knows things your head cannot even begin to comprehend.

It was that ‘gut feeling’ that made me ask a simple question that broke this man down in a sudden outburst of unexpected tears. The truths that were unravelled after that were amazingly illuminating and gave me a good glimpse into dark corners of his inner self I had not seen before.

The absurdity of it was ironical. I should have been the one doing the crying that evening, not him. But I had accidentally tapped into a place in his heart where years of sorrow had accumulated, and our roles had reversed. I could feel his pain in the pit of my stomach; it was raw, deep and convoluted, but not unfamiliar at all, as a lot of other things aren’t between us. 

We both agreed that although we were relatively new acquaintances, whenever we talked, it was like the conversation had started years ago, not today, not now. This feeling of familiarity led us to exchange private stories we had never told other people, in the knowledge it was safe to expose our vulnerabilities in this manner. In this safe environment we also discovered our lives had large amounts of incredible synchronicities.

Suddenly it occurred to me that we were sitting there, face to face, no longer man and woman with a tricky issue to discuss, but two bare souls with no walls between us. We could not have been more naked had we decided to take our clothes off.

Intimacy and departure
In a moment of surreal ‘understanding’, I felt a crazy connection with him that went beyond the physical and an overwhelming love for the beautiful soul beneath the man, never mind how flawed the man was. I finally understood what the ‘wise Me’ was telling me about the circumstances of this life being a superficial layer that could not prevent true connection.

But understanding that does not help, nor make me any happier because I am not dead yet; I am not a spirit devoid of emotional needs because it no longer inhabits a body. I am a woman, I am of this world; I want earthy things, I crave closeness in physical form because I am a physical being. Isn’t it my right to crave that? Dammit, isn’t it?

Right now, enlightenment sucks. Being unable to be feel anger is infuriating in itself, as there is no outlet for my hurt. Being incapable of hating and retaliating may be empowering in some ways, but the alternative is to feel bereft, painfully aware of an empty space and a vacuum that weren’t there before and which I now have to live with.

We parted, the man, me, the souls. A brief hiatus the evening was, no more. He may remember it one day, playing with his children on his lap, and wonder what has become of me. Or maybe not. The man went back to his ‘normal’ life: his work, his lover, his dreams, his future. Not even the burden of guilt to carry home. He was bad to me, yet I was good to him. Never mind.

On my way home, as I staggered down my street in the dark, drunk and emotionally spent, another surprise awaited me. A badger appeared a few metres ahead of me, trying to cross the street. It froze when it saw me, and went scurrying back to where it had come from. I stood still so as not to frighten it and mentally told him (?) it was okay to come out, that I wouldn’t hurt him. A few seconds later it reappeared, looked at me again before it hurriedly crossed the street, disappearing behind the houses on the other side. It was the first time ever I had seen a badger, and it made me cry because I was so drunk and so sad.

It was my first time ‘seeing’ a lot of other things that evening.

Like the badger I have a wide street to cross and no idea what’s on the other side. But at this very moment, I am sick of being good, spiritual, kind, understanding, ethical. I emptied a bottle of wine while writing this blog post and smoked a cigarette today, my first since my early 20s. The pack says “SMOKING KILLS”. Good: kill me. Because life isn’t fair, or logical. Because bad things keep happening to good people. Because being good hasn’t led me anywhere I want to be.

F*** the F-word. Why should I forgive anyone who’s ever done me harm. God give me all-consuming hatred, give me the power to lie, deceive, hurt. Allow me to break hearts as mine has been broken all my life, allow me to inflict pain and feel no guilt, no shame. Stop making me see there are souls behind each person, stop making me love so unconditionally when there is nothing, nothing in it for me and my earthy existence. Make me blind, make me blind, please make me blind.

When an old flame goes out: cutting the cord of love

cut the cord

“Much of life is about correctly determining on whom and on what we should finally give up.”

The above is a quote by author and philosopher Alain de Botton, and one that hits the nail on the head for me.

How good are you at letting go? Because I am hopeless at it. You see, I am, by nature, persevering, tenacious and accommodating. These attributes are very helpful and produce great results in my sales job because I am an optimist and never give up, but when it comes to men and relationships, they completely backfire.

Someone Like You
I recently bumped into an old flame in China, of all places. I was in Beijing, on business, attending a reception party, when I heard my name and felt a hand on my shoulder from behind.

I was gobsmacked when I turned around and saw him standing in front of me, smiling, looking as tall, as dark and as handsome as ever. He had started a long sabbatical last year, had moved back to his home country, on the other side of the Earth; I did not expect to see him again for a good few years.

This wasn’t just any old flame; this was THE old flame. Fifteen or so years ago that charming smile had made me swoon and become besotted with him. I had heard bells ringing; I had seen us happily married, sitting by a pool, while our two kids played, chasing each other, me discussing books and the state of the book industry with his intellectual parents.

I had met nice, attractive men before him, but he had been the first one my brain had registered as “husband material”, and not only because of his looks or personality. We worked in the same industry, we were both salespeople specialising in Asian territories, he was learning Japanese, loved Oriental foods, jet-setted round the world. He had grown up in a middle-class family like mine, who valued hard work and perseverance, he was highly ambitious and driven, yet totally modest, and a gentleman through and through. He ticked all my boxes, and more. I fell for that, and hard.

That was a long time ago. He is now happily married with a couple of kids; they probably live in a house with a swimming pool, just as I had once dreamed. You know Adele’s song, Someone Like You? Story of my life.

We are still friends, very good friends in fact. But I was in love for so many years the process of letting go of that pang I felt every time I walked into him at industry events and trade fairs was a long one. I only recently achieved some kind of closure, long after I had myself got married. For years I blamed myself for being one of those “women who love too much” and my inability to give up on things and people not worth fighting for.

When it comes to love, how do you measure how much of it is healthy and when does it start becoming obsessive? Where do you draw the line between controlled loving sentiments and unbridled passion? And is there anything wrong with loving someone so much that it hurts? 

I once went out with a psychotherapist, who told me we seek love again and again because we crave the intensity of the pain brought on by yearning for someone. The pain makes us feel alive, he said. There might be some truth in this, but I reckon love only causes hurt because we wish to possess and control the object of our desire. 

If we…if I…could only learn to love without wanting to enclose or entrap the loved one; if I could love, even when I cannot have them close, how much more liberating and easy love would be. But is it realistic?

I have met other men since Old Flame ceased to burn a hole in my heart. Many were like ships passing in the night; a few others left deeper marks, and one, I suspect I may still be in love with. As it were, because when you think about someone from the past, you assume they haven’t changed and you haven’t changed, but you have, and they have. You are in love with a memory, not a real person.

This is what I felt when I walked out of the party in Beijing, leaving Old Flame surrounded, as usual, by a flock of women who had gathered, trying to make small talk with him. In the past I’d have dropped everything for a chance to be alone with him; I’d have ignored and put up with the gathering crowd while he played out his role of popular/everybody-loves-me guy and successful entrepreneur. I’d have sacrificed my self-respect for a minute of his attention.

But I didn’t this time. I realised I could never finish a single conversation with him because someone always barged in and started another. It occurred to me that being liked by a generic all was more important to him than being liked by a specific one. That talking to anyone who led to a business opportunity took priority over catching up with an old friend. I think I always knew that but didn’t want to admit it. I wanted to believe he was Prince Charming and could not put a foot wrong.

I’d had it, I left. For once, I put myself first. I chose to go somewhere more private for a drink with a good friend and giggled the whole evening, sipping Bloody Mary, not once thinking about Old Flame.

Starved of oxygen, the fire is long extinguished and for that I am relieved. But I was astounded by the realisation that the person I once loved so deeply and for so long was not someone I would have loved now, nor would I care to fight for his friendship.

The relentless ambition I used to admire so blindly now feels tiresome and jaded: how often does one have to prove oneself and what for? A day or two later, at the breakfast table of our hotel, he tells me he is doing an MBA, planning a new business, running marathons, playing competitive tennis in different continents, making his kids learn Mandarin, as it’s the language of the future. I listen, unimpressed. I notice, dispassionately, his bulging biceps and the hunky torso underneath his yellow Nike T-shirt, the result of years of disciplined training in the gym. I see the beautiful, familiar green eyes that look at you but rarely through you.

What I used to deem the “perfect” man no longer floats my boat. Instead, I catch myself being attracted to men who wear their vulnerabilities on their sleeves, whose most interesting bulging parts are their flaws, their weaknesses and human failings. Perhaps because they represent a reflection of myself as an imperfect human being, who awkwardly makes mistakes again and again. It’s a good sign. It is a sign I like them because I also like myself more.

Old attachments are like warts: they have been part of you for so long, cutting them off is like self-mutilation. Of course it hurts, of course it bleeds, but it is a necessary evil for you to move on.

Old Flame was, in the end, a surprisingly uncomplicated door to close. But I have other past attachments I believe go beyond the sexual; they are more of a soul-to-soul connection, and those I am not confident I can ever sever because I love their spirit as much as or more than their physical representation on earth, if you know what I mean.

Yet loving with longing is painful; longing to be close when closeness is not possible is cruel and masochistic. Those I cannot let go, I have no choice but to continue loving, but loving without the yearning, loving without controlling, without expecting, without wanting.

There is letting go and there is letting go.

It is ridiculous, I know. I am not a monk, give me a break.

But then I am not capable of living without loving.

Are you? Tell me, are you?