I hate to see young women post “before and after” pictures of themselves.
It’s a myth.
There was never a before or after version of yourself.
During hardship, during heartbreak, during the best of times, during your apocalypse. During love, and bitterness and beauty and all-consuming rage.
It upsets me so much because it feels like we’re mocking our younger selves. Belittling them. As if our bodies were ever supposed to look anything different from exactly as they did at that point in time. If that was how we were, then that was where we needed to be, and to mock our past selves is to dishonour our wonderful life-giving bodies for doing their most important job of all. Which, of course, is simply allowing us to survive up until that point. Regardless of shape or size.
Posting pictures like that feels like we’re saying “Look at that shameful person, I am not associated with that anymore.”
Like we’re burning bridges.
Like our body was just a fairweather friend anyway, who we can cut ties with when we decide they’re no longer good enough for us.
But, if we burn all our bridges,
how will we ever find our way back home?
- being alone
- not being good enough
- making the wrong decision
- losing the people i love the most
- the words and thoughts of others
- failure – in so many ways at so many different things
- missing out on “life”
- time moving too fast
These are just the big things. There are other things. Like farting loudly in a crowded public place, and being trapped in a lift. Oh, and needing the toilet when there isn’t one around. And being publicly humiliated. And bumping into my ex. And upsetting people. Accidentally saying something offensive or ignorant. Fire. Being violently assaulted. Plane crashes. Being sick. Being really sick. Awkward social situations. Meeting new people. Touching door handles in public bathrooms. Raw meat. Confrontations. Crying when I don’t mean to. Getting pregnant by accident. Slipping and being knocked out and not being found for days. Car crashes. Losing my memory. Loved ones losing their memories. Drifting apart from old friends. New situations. Looking stupid and self-conscious. Making a bad first impression. Wasting time. Regrets. Being far from home. Losing talents and abilities. Being unattractive. Public speaking.
Having my skirt tucked into my knickers without realising.
Never amounting to much.
Trees miss their blossoms in the winter.
It gets dark. It gets cold. The nights are inconceivably long. The sunlight barely shines through the overcast greys.
And weeds grow.
They start growing where there used to be daisies and daffodils.
The weeds can tough it out.
The daisies can’t.
They wilt at the first frost.
But weeds can bear flowers too. Unexpected and hardy.
A flourish of colour amidst the gloom.
Weeds accompany the trees through their harsh winter.
and offer them their own flowers as compensation.
It’ll never be quite as brilliant as a spring in full bloom,
but it’s something to cling on to.
The winter will drag on forever.
But the trees are patient.
Their blossoms will return.
When the moon and the sun
decide it’s so.
we once walked the same path.
you and i.
for four years, almost.
the same well worn trail.
there were small flowers growing out of our footprints.
and moss slowly growing on fallen branches.
and ferns reaching for light in the dark of the undergrowth.
we used to hold hands as we walked.
i don’t think i even realised our paths had diverged until i was clinging onto your hand by my out-stretched arm and my fingertips.
and you weren’t reaching for mine anymore.
i looked up, and could barely see you through the thicket that had enveloped the gulf now between us.
i didn’t see the warning signs.
i didn’t see the cracks beneath our feet.
i didn’t notice you veering off on your own course to avoid a fallen tree.
“two roads diverged in a wood”
it is not our path anymore.
it is not our story anymore.
and it’s mine.
two separate paths winding their own course through the forests.
but for four years it was ours.
and it was magic,
because the path we walked together was golden.
sweep me off my feet and take me where I need to be
because I no longer know.
pour down on me in a deluge, a flood
wash away my grief,
let my tears mix with your raindrops on my cheeks
so neither of us can tell the difference
between heartbreak, and nature.
light a small spark in my soul again,
a smoldering ember among the ashes of what I used to be,
to give me a passion
where have you gone?
I used to feel you beneath my feet,
but now I’m sure I’m falling.
Ground, come up to meet me and catch me.
After all, it’s not the fall itself that kills you in the end, is it?
This time, I wrote the alphabet down the side of my page and forced myself to fill in the words in alphabetical order.
after all we’ve
cancelling us the way you
even if i’d had the faintest hint it was coming it still would’ve
get up, it’s been months now
he’s moving on
isn’t it about time you do the same?
just the next right step, one foot in front of the other
kick and scream and resist if you must but what about
letting it wash over you like a wave?
more like a storm
no, a tsunami
please let yourself cry, even if it is just
quietly into your pillow after dark, don’t
run the risk of being heard
start small and
unconditional love exists
validating and unwavering
when, maybe, you stop putting
x‘s at the end of your messages to him, and reserve them for
yourself instead. this is where we begin again at
I wrote the alphabet down the side of my page, and just filled in the letters as the words naturally came out of me, in any order. But, when I finished I kept the starts of the sentences in alphabetical order, just to see if it made any more sense that way. Spoiler – it doesn’t.
and you can’t keep out-running your problems
but I didn’t realise your love was
conditional on my mental health
did you think moving away would fix it?
even in our darkest moments, I thought we could recover
fly to Thailand, that’ll do it
get away from this wretched place
hello, loneliness, it’s been a while, or has it?
i used to think we could withstand anything
just the two of us
kisses that stopped time
love that took us on adventures
mountain top views of the sunrise over the Himalayas
no matter what continent you’re on
one great love, to usurp all that came before
problems are always one step ahead of you though
quietly, and peacefully
stronger than before
turns out i was wrong about that too
unconditional love is what i thought we had
validatory and unwavering
waiting for confirmation…
x – incorrect answer
you’d still be there by my side though, wouldn’t you?
Do we want reality, or fantasy? Let’s go for fantasy first:
Him: Hi [insert name], I’m so sorry for everything I’ve done. And I’m sorry for cutting all contact with you. That wasn’t fair.
Me: That’s ok.
Him: Well, I’ve just had a realisation. I didn’t know what a terrible, terrible affect my actions had on you. It was never intentional, but I know that doesn’t make it any better. You deserved to be treated better than that. I should have been honest with you.
Me: I really appreciate you calling. It’s not an easy thing to do. I’m sorry too – I know I could be difficult at times.
Him: No, you have nothing to apologize for. You behaved the way you did because of my actions. I hope that you can find a way to get over all of this.
Me: I have had to have lots of counselling, but I’m slowly getting there.
Him: I really hope you can overcome what I did, and I’m so sorry, again.
Him: I don’t know what you want me to apologize for. You were the one that overreacted. Do you not understand how awful you made me feel about it all? I can’t help the way you reacted.
Me: Ok, I’m sorry.
The room is grey and messy. Clothes on the floor. Unorganised desk. Untidy drawers. Unemptied bins. The bed is small and unmade. The curtains are partly drawn back and there’s a small amount of condensation on the window pane. It smells slightly damp. And of a warm, wet shower room. You can smell weed and cigarette smoke. There’s a very faint smell of grease from the kitchen down the corridor.
You can just about hear gaggles of freshers stumbling past outside, on their way to D-bar, for fresh-faced frivolities. There’s the distant, rhythmic thudding of a house party from a few floors above Occasionally, the big outside door bangs shut and there are footsteps up the stairs.
You anticipate a cup of tea.
Then, his phone vibrates.
The screen lights up with a peculiar message.
It seems all I do these days is write about how sad I am. So I may as well chronicle it for your entertainment.
We’d promised each other a lot of things over the years.
That we’d never leave.
That we’d always support each other.
That we’d always love each other.
That we’d always be adventure buddies.
I didn’t realise that these promises were conditional.
Conditional on my mental health remaining stable.
Conditional on me not becoming unwell.
Conditional on me not deviating from the adventurous, confident girl you fell in love with.
Well, I’m sorry I changed.
I’m sorry my mental health deteriorated.
But my promises were never conditional.
I loved you unconditionally.
And I still do.
Can anyone really ever promise anyone anything anyway?
Does it all amount to empty words and broken hearts in the end?
It seems that way.
I guess I’m just in disbelief that you can say “forever” one night, and the next morning break my heart. Forever.
Maybe some “forevers” do count.
But none of the ones I counted on.