Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Here’s a place to begin
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 3:38 pm
How do we love?
Here’s a place to begin
Come and go, take and give
Sand goes out, wave comes in
Oh my love, your face is a faraway place
from ‘A faraway place’ by The Guild League, from the album ‘Private transport’
I stood on the beach, not entirely alone but almost, away from the people I had come with, away from any people at all. I stood there with my feet on the pebbles, with my dress blown by the warm wind, and with my ear to my mobile phone. I stood there looking at the waves come in, crash, and go. It was a late Easter, the beginning of May, and unseasonably hot: two weeks before it had felt like winter and now it almost felt like summer, the skipped spring like a word unspoken and almost forgotten in between.
She was telling me of all that she had dreamed the previous night, of her friend and of the man she loved. She spoke of dreams of previous lives, of intrigue and passion and even, I think, of murder. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know if I believed in previous lives. I didn’t know how important I considered all that night time dreaming to be. I didn’t even know why I was there, on that particular beach, in that particular conversation at that time of my life, not really — although I felt that there must be a reason for it all, and so I stood, and as I stood I listened.
I remember it as a kind of sublime moment, a moment made of silence and space inside me, of the wind and the waves outside me, and yet I must have been struggling at the time: struggling to understand, to find the right thing to say, to find the words with which to say it. As it happens I don’t remember any of what I said except for the moment, near the end, when I asked her to picture this man, the man she said she loved, the man she was telling me she thought she had killed –out of love and passion and jealousy– in a previous life, to look at him and to tell him, simply, ‘this time I will love you in the way that you need to be loved.’
I have no idea where that sentence came from. I don’t know if what I said meant anything to her at all. What I do know is that I picked up a pebble then, and threw it towards the sea — and then, because that didn’t seem quite enough, another, and then another. It was that kind of moment: the kind of moment that needs to be punctuated somehow, the kind of moment when the whole wide world seems to hold its breath and gather around your heart to listen. It was the moment I found myself alone with the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea, with the brown of the sand and the white of the sea foam, with the wind dancing all around me and with this promise shining clear inside my heart: this time, I will love you like you need to be loved.
I didn’t know it then, but I had just began to find my way home.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
In which I try to explain why I disappeared, and why I always seem to be talking about the boy Constantin, and I conclude that I need to take my own advice
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 6:59 pm
It was such a good idea. I would ‘remember the magic:’ I would write about the major magical moments of my life. I’d write about them in the order in which they happened, not in an attempt to write an autobiography, but only to bring some discipline into this undertaking — discipline that would, I hoped, work to sustain my inspiration. In turn, this exercise would work to remind me that I have, in fact, come across quite a lot of magic in my life, thus opening up my eyes to the possibilities of further magic. It would, in short, ‘beget new magic.’ While I was at it, I would find my voice again, or at least my ability to write. Oh, and I would post every day for the month of November.
Except that’s not quite how things turned out. I lasted thirteen days — which is not too bad, all things considered. And I did get somewhat unstuck, it’s true. By the end of the first week I could just sit down, think of a moment, and confidently wait for the writing to come. But instead of a renewed faith in the magicalness of the world I was left with a renewed sense of despair — the despair that haunted me in the summer of 2001, which is to say after Constantin and I had ran out of opportunities to miss; which continued to haunt for the years that followed; which was still, evidently, lurking somewhere in the dark recesses of my heart last November.
There was a lot of magic in those years, in that summer in particular, but it was all of the even though kind: even though my world as I knew it had fallen to bits, even though I lost what was dearest to my heart, even though I couldn’t imagine how to go on, even then, great things happened. They were full of good things, these years — songs that pointed the way, places to travel to and explore, friends that warmed my heart. They were the years in which my world grew and grew until it was big enough for me, and also the years in which I grew and grew until I became myself. But even so, there was a hole in my heart, because I’d once found something precious and then lost it again.
There was this one time, perhaps the second or third time we made love, in my room, in my parents’ flat, which wasn’t the best of choices but it was better than wandering around town in the bitter cold, and not making love at all — there was this time when he kissed me gently and said, in the dark, “I will protect you from everything; I can’t stop it from happening, but I will be like a sponge, and wipe it all away,” and I knew just what he meant. The thing is, Constantin and I, despite our numerous and significant differences, we have this one thing in common: we look at the way people move through the world with the same question in our eyes. For that one moment, he knew what it was like to be me, and he had taken this into his heart. As far as I am aware, that was the one time in my life I was looked at in the way that I look at others.
I believed him.
He didn’t live up to that, you know that by now. Of course he didn’t, you’re thinking: he was a boy, it is a tall order, there was so much in the way. I know that, and, mostly, I knew it then, too; and yet the fact that after a while he didn’t even try broke my heart. I took it personally, of course I did, I thought he didn’t love me enough because I wasn’t good enough. All of which is nonsense, of course, but still. For years, I wondered if anyone would ever love me as he had. Eventually I worked out that it didn’t matter, that people love you in their own different ways, and that this is a gift in itself, and I was happy with that. I am happy with that. But I still wonder if there will ever be another moment like that. I fear that there will not. And I dare not hope, for fear of having my heart broken, or of appearing like a fool.
Oh Dimitra. You know better than that.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
We’ll never get to Paris now
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 3:45 pm
May 2001. Thessaloniki.
There was magic when we were together. As long as we could keep from sulking and from arguing it would be there, between us, turning being together into worthwhile activity in itself. I have so many memories of it.
Cleaning our flat in preparation for a dinner party, one May evening, I mopped myself into a corner and ended up lying on the sofa, waiting for the floor to dry, my heart bursting with happiness.
Sitting on the front balcony on a bright June morning, having breakfast, listening to the sounds of the neighbourhood, cars rolling by, people talking, the collared doves cooing.
Sitting next to each other on a wall on the island of Mykonos in July, or was it August? A temporary truce between us, ice lollies in our hands, we swung our legs against the wall as we waited for the bus, sunburned and salty, and, no doubt, beautiful.
A night in September when I stepped on some mayonnaise on the pavement outside some fast food place. I looked down and said that it was whipped cream, and he laughed at me and teased that it might be grease from the the Yellow Submarine — implying that I tend to see the world as better than it is.
A November morning when we got to the film festival just in time to see ‘Together’, sitting on the stairs because we hadn’t bothered to book tickets, and we had breakfast in the dark, sneakily. When we walked out we found the gulf bathed into the bright diffused sunshine that only a Thessalonikian November can provide, and we walked along the seafront feeling as if we belonged.
Sitting in the cafÃ© where he worked with a new Harry Potter book and a lovely new umbrella, while the rain fell outside.
Walking through the night on the first hours of New Year’s Day, on my way to him.
But despite the magic and despite the almost transcendental love we had for one another we eventually ran out of moments like these. We split up, officially, sometime in February. That meant that he went out on his own a lot, and he ignored me when he felt like it; but we still lived together, in twin rooms at the back of the flat; we still made love; and we still argued.
“But why is it that you want to be with me?” he shouted.
I was surprised. That was a genuine question, thrown into the inanity of the argument. Our arguments had stopped making a sense a long time ago. By that time, sixteen months after we had first got together, he liked me as much as he was scared of me, and I was angry with him nearly as much. He was pushing me away, running away, and I hated myself because I wanted to hold on so badly, but knew it only made it worse.
“Because when I’m with you I’m ten times as strong. I feel like I could take on the world,” I said, sincerely, wondering.
“Yes,” he replied, entirely unexpectedly. “It’s like that for me, too.”
And then, somehow, we resumed arguing.
Oh, the missed opportunities. Sometimes I think they’re all we really had.
‘We’ll never get to Paris now’ is a Belmondo song, which you may be able to download here. There is also a wonderful Pinefox version, which you can find here. Go listen to it.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:56 pm
April, 2000. Thessaloniki.
We ran through the downpour to get to the cafÃ©.
That’s all, really. I could tell you that I was wearing a new skirt, and my pink shirt; that the rain made my hair curlier than usual; that he thought I was pretty, and it showed in his eyes. I could tell you that we had already started to argue, that we had started to doubt our happiness, that this made the temporary harmony all the more precious. I could tell you that we sat and talked, what the coffee tasted like, about the way the raindrops hit against the window. But really there wasn’t much else to it. Spring was coming; we were together; we were young and in love; and we ran through the rain.
Monday, November 7, 2011
The second attempt
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:18 pm
November, 1999. Thessaloniki.
Another wall to lean against, this time outside a bar toilet. It was better than it sounds: I was leaning against my friend’s coat, which helped me hold on to my courage. I had to do something, and this was the only thing that I could think of.
He came out.
“I’ve got three things to tell you,” I said before he had a chance to speak.
“The first one is that I’m in love with you.” I paused.
“I have forgotten the second one.” I thought for a moment, then gave up.
“The third one is that I will not wait forever, but I will wait for a while. If you want to change your life, you know where I am.” Another pause, and then —
“Oh, I have remember the second one. It was all flattery: you are beautiful, and so on and so forth,” I finished, sounding simultaneously dismissive and earnest.
“I knew that — well, the first one,” he said, and smiled, and walked back to the table where his girlfriend was waiting. I walked back to where my friends were sitting, took a deep breath, and started to wait for a while.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
The first attempt
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:30 pm
October, 1999. Thessaloniki.
Dusk was falling as I leaned against the wall, waiting for him to come out. This was my third attempt: the week before I had waited outside the wrong college, twice, before I realised my mistake. Seeing as I could not, at the time, conceive of taking no for an answer I’d waited around for the next available opportunity, jumped on a bus, and stood against the wall. I’d even brushed my hair at the bus stop.
It was the magic from the previous post that had brought me there. It started its work one sunny September afternoon, when I took a break from fixing my broken bed and sat down, alone, amid the bed planks and the screws and the dust that danced in the patches of early autumn light coming through the window — and found myself thinking of him. I hardly knew him then – we’d only met him a handful of times, only talked twice– and I certainly had never thought about him before; and yet suddenly there he was, in my head, and that was making me happy.
Before long I was overtaken by a conviction unlike anything I had experienced before. “I wander the world for you,” I wrote in my diary, “knowing that you are at the other end of something, quite what I do not know, holding the balance.” “It’s simply that I think that my life complements yours, and yours mine.” “Somehow I think that the heavens will send down the right moves, and, sometime, it will all happen.” But I must have decided that the heavens needed some help down here on earth, too, because there I was, leaning against the wall of the right college.
He was the third one out. He looked around for his girlfriend, quickly, and then said, appreciatively, “you’re very brave.” ‘What would I have, if I didn’t have courage?’ I thought, but thinking that too serious I simply said, “it runs in the family.” Saying little more we walked to the next corner, where I gave him a kiss and a little wooden aeroplane (the best thing I had ever got in a Kinder egg), and we went our separate ways.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:08 pm
We were young, and in love, and we sat high above the city as dusk fell on a freezing Sunday afternoon. Those were the days we were homeless and cold but too happy to notice, which is to say they were the days before we moved in together and started to inadvertently take our love apart. We walked around as if in a dream, that February, barely able to believe our luck for having found one another. We held our breath every time we had to be apart, afraid that any minute we were about to wake up and find we were, after all, alone in our own beds.
They were the days when I hardly knew myself, too: the days before the internet, before I’d heard most of the songs I love, before I met most of my favourite people, when I still thought that I would become what my parents expected me to become — an academic. I went to all my lectures and took copious notes, even in the archaeology ones that bored me half to death, and I had French lessons because French was thought to be the most useful language for a historian to know; and even though I never started revising for exams until it was almost too late I always did well. While I suspected my family was crazy, I had no idea quite how true that was. Unhappiness was normal in that world, and ever present. Other people’s unhappiness, that is; I wanted to be happy. But even so, the dream of a different life was still asleep in my heart, asleep and dreaming.
Except that there he was, the boy Constantin, also known as the first big miracle in the catalogue of my life; and there I was, the one who had carried the wish for this moment in her heart of hearts for months until it finally happened; and there we were, alone together, as the purple, hazy dusk fell onto the city, as the city tumbled into the sea, as the sea stretched into the sky. If you’ve ever been in love in Thessaloniki you’ll know exactly what I mean, you probably know the very spot or one very much like it, and you can picture the odd mix of careless ugliness and majestic, almost transcendental beauty that makes Thessaloniki what it is — the place that inspired us to our wildest dreams and told us they can never come true, all in one breath.
We sat looking at each other, that’s how it always was those days, and I told him about the two girls I’d been friends with at school: how I’d fallen out with both of them (on separate occasions, two years apart); how it broke my heart; and how I didn’t really understand it, which was strange — I’ve always been good at understanding. He listened, and when I finally paused at the end, he looked at it me and said, simply: “it seems to me like you loved the girls more than they loved you.” It was the truth –the most compassionate, tender version of the truth imaginable, the one that cast me in the best possible light– and so I didn’t quite believe it; I wasn’t given to being kind to myself back then. Also, it was easy to dismiss: he only said that because he was in love with me.
Oh, I was a fool. I know. But you see, I’d been told that when you’re in love you lose sight of reality, that what you see in the other person is a projection of your wishes and desires, and I’d gone and believed it. Now I wish I could sit my younger self down and tell her that she didn’t need to be cynical, not even when the whole world around her was, and that she should follow her heart, and do it with courage; and I wonder if our story would have perhaps unfolded differently had I found the strength to hold on to my dreams when things got hard. I’ll never know.
But despite my casual dismissal, and despite everything that came later, his statement stayed with me through the eleven-and-a-half years that followed, and in time it came to be something of a landmark in my life. It points the way: I am seized, intermittently, by the desire to be as tender, understated, and wise as he was in that moment; and I try, always, to be the one who looks for the love lurking in the darkest recesses of your heart, the one who points it out to you when you can’t see it. I don’t always get it right, but I learn a lot in trying, and it would be worth it just for that — and for those times when I do get it right, and I am rewarded with a perfect moment of understanding.
But that’s not the reason why this moment has been on my mind lately. It’s simply that I have come to realise that he was right, even though he was in love with me, or even because he was in love with me: he was right. I loved the girls more than they loved me; and I dare say that in the eleven-and-a-half years that followed I went on to love a significant number of other people more than they loved me. I’ve felt sad about this, and I’ve felt lonely; but mostly, oh, mostly I’ve felt foolish. I tend to fall in love –with people, with ideas, with projects, with songs– and it does inevitably end with me lying in bed, alone, looking at the ceiling and lamenting the fact that I’m so very strange and different.
As if I would ever want to be any other way.
I think it’s time to look back and say ‘thank you’ to the boy Constantin, and to the world: I love you more — and that’s just fine.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Every one a precious thing
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:24 pm
One thing I found myself saying a lot over the summer is “love is many different things.” I said it so much I started thinking about it. Here’s what I thought.
When I was seventeen and sporting a weird-looking mushroom haircut I walked into a tatty record shop in my home town, and the shop owner liked me so much he took a photo of me when I wasn’t looking. Later on he gathered up his courage and told my best friend’s boyfriend that he liked “his mistress’s friend,” in a short, stumbling, to-the-point statement, entirely characteristic of everything about him. It took me a long time to warm up to him –he was sweet, but he was also old, and strange– but when I did I loved him from the bottom of my seventeen-year-old-heart, with a love that was pure and true and devoted: if he had asked me to marry him I would have, and I would have spent the rest of my life in the company of his wondrous childish innocence and notorious old man grumpiness. He didn’t.
So when I was almost nineteen I pushed open the door of a bar and walked in at the exact moment the DJ, a friend of mine, was telling the boy I had been in love with for a few months that he didn’t need to go some place else for something to happen in his life — perhaps the woman of his dreams would walk right through the door. When I hear the phrase ‘truly, madly, deeply’ I always think of the relationship that followed that night. I never knew that love could be so strong, or so fierce, or that it could make your head spin. That being in the same room as someone could be all you wanted for a while, or that such a small thing could seem so magical. That he could seem so magical, that it would seem to me that the heavens had opened and he had fallen right off. That just being together could make us feel that we could take on half the world. And I could never have imagined that all this wouldn’t be enough to keep us together when we were too young, too sad — and, perhaps, a little too different.
A fair few people followed that made my broken heart beat a little faster. The blue-eyed boy with the stripy hat stands out for his boundless sweetness and his amazing ability to send love in large quantities through text messages. The precious few hours I spent with him were some of the happiest of my life. I felt at home like never before. The world seemed wondrous, the little riverside town the most beautiful place in the world, the sunshine god-given. I cried on the train home, out of the happiness of having found him more than the sadness of leaving him. And when he disappeared from my life a few months later, almost soundlessly, almost painlessly, I almost couldn’t mind.
There was also the cute boy from the airport, the one who inspired me to the phrase ‘instant magic, like soap bubbles’. The a boy I spotted on the gate of a late night, late flight. The boy that looked so perfect –like a pop song– that I couldn’t help but stare and smile and want to watch him all the time. The boy I thought I’d never see again after the baggage reclaim area only to bump into him two days later at a clubnight, which made somebody exclaim “it’s fate!” I got his phone number, but it turned out it wasn’t fate.
And there was also the green-eyed boy who kissed me goodbye on that very same night, a kiss so sweet it stayed with me for hours, a boy I thought I’d never fall in love with but did. He changed my mind, through persistence and the promise of a day out on Brighton beach and I am glad that he did, because the months I spent with him were happy and the love we shared sweet and straightforward. I still have the mixtapes and the records and the lists of the films we watched and the towns we wandered around in and even a recipe for brownies.
And then there was the second blue-eyed boy, the one I had a long-distance pop crush on. And it wasn’t much more than a pop crush, I tell you, but it was a long lasting one, and it must have been pretty bad, too, because later on I discovered I had written in my diary that “just the thought of just being with him makes me feel lucky forever,” like all my sunny dreams have come true in a rainy world, “in a, suddenly, not-so-rainy lifetime.” The force of that feeling surprised me, but it must have been honest. I don’t lie to myself in my diary.
By the time the crush faded away I was twenty-three and my heart had mended which probably has something to do with the fact that I found myself confessing my love to yet another blue-eyed boy at a bus stop in the dark. Later on, as we were falling asleep in different beds, he told me love was “such a big word,” and this made me swear silently to myself –in the name of the weeks of sleepless nights that had come before, of the hopes and the dreams and the joy he put in my heart just by existing– that I would prove I meant what I said. I swore that years go by, and I would still love him. Years went by, and I do.
And then, of course, as you all know by now, there was the boy Martijn. The boy with whom everything was easy — until he turned into the boy with whom everything was hard, that is. Three months of heaven that gradually dissolved into two years of hell, and if you think I’m exaggerating, well, you should have been there. And yet I stuck with him through it, convinced that there was a way out of it, that I had I had a plan and that the plan would work, undoubtedly guided by a higher power at times and yet doubting myself all the way. And if that’s not love, then I don’t know what is. It’s not as pure or as strong or as sweet, or as instant, as easy, as dreamy, as joyful, as overwhelming as other kinds of love have been, and it never was. But there’s nobody I’d rather build my life with, nobody I’d rather have (and bring up) babies with, nobody that shares my dreams and believes in the same things as I do in quite the same way. And if that’s not love, then I don’t know what is.
But this is not a post about how or how much I love my husband. Mostly it is a post about how, to me, the idea that there is such a thing as the one, true love and that it can somehow be identified by certain characteristics seems like an illusion. It is a post about how in each and every one of those relationships, crushes or affairs –and, for that matter, in a fair few others that did not fit under the ‘in love’ umbrella and therefore are not mentioned here– there was something special, something that meant the world to me, something I never found anywhere else. But it’s not a post about how true love doesn’t exist. It’s just a post about how true love is what you make of it.
PS I hate to quote Dan Treacy, but sometimes you have to. He does have a talent for lines.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Sometimes he is so funny
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 6:52 pm
Thursday night, and Rob and I are sitting on the beach —or, to be precise, on the steps that lead to the beach. It’s the sort of thing you dream of* doing when you dream of moving to Devon. We’re watching trains go by on the other side of the river and talking about songs about sandcastles, when Martijn calls to say goodnight — quite naturally assuming I am at home.
“Is Rob still there?”
“Yes. He is still here. On the beach. With me. Are you jealous?”
Meaning, are you jealous we’re on the beach in Devon when you’re in your room in Oxfordshire, about to go to bed because you have to get up early tomorrow morning’? Except Rob gets it a little wrong.
“Martijn, it’s not what you think it is!”
“Oh, damn. And I thought you were just sitting there, talking.”
*If, that is, you are the sort of person who moved to Devon because they had been dreaming of it — and not the sort of person who had never given the place a thought before they discovered their dream course was situated there. And never gave it a second thought after that until the find themselves in a soddy ‘holiday home’ on Morton Road. But that’s a whole different story.
Monday, February 5, 2007
Isn’t being married exciting?
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:50 pm
It’s 8 am. Half asleep and three quarters awake (I know it doesn’t up: that’s how it felt) I stumble into the living room, where Martijn is getting ready to catch the train to Oxfordshire.
“Hey. You look cute today!”
Then, a half-asleep sense of deja-vu. Why do I get this feeling I have said this before? Oh, wait. Because I have said it before.
“You are always wearing the same clothes on Monday mornings!”
For some people, imagination is a precious commodity that should not be wasted on trivial things like clothes, it seems.
“I’ll tell you a secret,” he whispers. “I wear them all day every Monday, too!”
I shake my head, and I giggle. It’s not such a bad start to the week, after all.
Monday, January 22, 2007
And still, I hate January #1
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:44 pm
Two years and a few days ago I woke up at 5 a.m. next to Martijn who didn’t, because he hadn’t really fallen asleep in the first place, and he asked me:
“When do you think we are going to get married?”
At that time we had been together for just about three months so it was a bit of a crazy question. Still, it was uttered matter-of-factly, much like one would say “when is your friend Will coming over?” But that’s Martijn for you. Plus, it was 5 a.m. and I was half-asleep and therefore not thinking clearly, so I just replied equally matter-of-factly the first thing that came to me:
And so it happened that we got engaged: completely unceremoniously but still rather sweetly, at an ungodly hour of the day.
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
The big things, the little things and happiness
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:09 am
A while ago a girl I know split up with her boyfriend of six years. They did it amicably, deciding to remain best friends and give it another go after he had sorted himself out and become a little happier about things. That lasted a few days: until he got a drunk, that is, and came round in the early hours of a Sunday morning, breaking her door and a neighbour’s window while shouting some less than pretty things about her and her friends, who live in the flats above. I met a few of those people a couple of days after that, and they were, understandably, sad and shaken. They were also really and truly shocked, amazed that such a nice boy could do that sort of thing. Which made me realise something: I was not. Of course I was sad. It is always sad to hear how people can mess up their own lives because they can’t control themselves. I was also angry — the words ‘stupid’ and ‘bastard’ came to mind immediately, as they do in such cases. But I was not shocked.
And how could I be, really. I’m rather used to this thing. Not that anyone has ever broken my door but I’ve seen plenty of emotional outbursts of this sort, in fact I have grown up with them. Not only my childhood but pretty much all my life up to now has been punctuated by this sort of incident. Whose main recipient I often was. First my dad, then my brother, then the boy Constantin (also known as the Previous Significant Boyfriend) and now, of course, Martijn have made sure I wouldn’t forget what verbal violence is. Or how angry a man can be. Or how nasty he can get when angry, and how stupid. By this I mean how many things he doesn’t really mean he can say— and how they can become true after a while if he says them often enough. I have to say that I am all too used to this. By now (I am twenty five, nearly twenty six) it has become something I deal with rather than something that comes upon me like a thunderstorm. Something that, upsetting as it may be, exists outside me not inside me. Something that, in time, will stop, go away. The sun will come out again. But I digress — or, rather, I am jumping ahead of myself here.
That thought hit me hard this summer. I am used to this — and what this is, what it is called these days, is abuse. ‘I’ve been abused’ is a hard thought to accept, even when the reality of it is glaringly obvious, as it has always been. It becomes harder when it hits you at the same time as ‘this is happening to me again, it is still happening, it has always been happening, what is going on here?’ I am still not sure I have the answer to the question. What I am sure about is that I am going to shoot the first person to imply that this is a choice I am making, and that I am making it for a reason. Extra bullets thrown in for anyone who implies I don’t know better (one bullet), I don’t love myself enough (three bullets) or that I must have done something really nasty in a previous life and now I’m paying for it (too many bullets to count). I do believe in reincarnation, by the way. And in the fact that we make choices. And that there is a reason for the things that happen. I just think that sometimes these things are beyond our reach and understanding. And that they’re not as simple or straightforward as some people seem to think. And –finally– that we’re not as much as into punishing ourselves or teaching ourselves lessons the hard way. But I really do digress. I was saying that it is hard to accept that you have been abused. And it is, perhaps, harder still to understand how you can feel both that, and a princess.
It is hard. But it is also comforting, reassuring, and, well, inspiring. Because while anyone can abuse you no one can make you a princess if you aren’t one. And while my fears could have come from outside there are other things that could only have come from inside, from me: my faith in the world, in its inherent goodness, regardless of everything; the fact that I fought back, fought for what I believed in even when I was tiny, refusing to believe my dad when he said that everything and everyone was horrible; my ability to bounce back, and, occasionally, eventually, and truly, be happy. It made me proud of myself to realise all that, and it makes me prouder still to write it down. I was a magical child. I brought these things with me and kept them alive through some really dark times. And now that I’m all grown up I only believe in them more.
But I digress again. This post was supposed to be about happiness. I was going to talk about something that all this bouncing back has taught me, something that watching that girl trying to pull herself back together in the days following the breaking of her door, and that is: there are two kinds of happiness, the inside one and the outside one, and they are both important. (The inside one comes from knowing that all is well in your world; the outside one, from experiencing things that make you feel that all is well in your world.) Just as are there people who have told me “if you are happy with yourself, nothing can put you down” and people who have told me “living in a nice flat is not going to make me less sad” — and, much as I could see where both of them where coming from, I disagreed with them both. Knowing that all is well in your world (or some sort of more realistic approximation thereof) is indeed a very powerful thing, I have discovered that as I slowly approach it. But I have also discovered that it won’t help you if it is 3 am and your husband is shouting all sorts of things he doesn’t mean, and he can’t seem to stop himself for hours. And the only thing that will help you get through the next day when everything seems shattered to pieces is the sunshine, a new book and cooking your favourite dinner. The little things. I am an expert at bouncing back. Two days and one good night’s sleep later I could smile again. Three days and two nights’ sleep later I was bouncing around the flat, singing along to the Fairways. (The Fairways are great, by the way.)
Some days I wonder if it is good to be like that. Some others I know I wouldn’t have survived –emotionally– had I been any other way. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to be this way. Others, I think it is a priceless skill which might help me achieve great things one day. But I digress. All I am trying to say is that you should take care of the little things. Do not disregard them, they matter more than people give them credit for. If you can’t have the big things, if the world is –temporarily or otherwise– looking like a menacing, unfriendly place and nothing seems right, keep the faith and focus on the little things. And the big things will come along.
It works. I tell you.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Meaning vs fate
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:16 pm
I’m not quite done answering Dawn’s question (of sorts).
We held a dinner party last Saturday. It was nice to see our house filled with lovely people. I took the chance to show some photos from our wedding, and answered some questions about how we met (on the indiepop list); which of course was followed by more questions. To most people meeting your husband on the internet still sounds like an outrageous idea. We explained that we had been moving in the same (indiepop) circles, and we had common friends, we’d been to the same festival twice, in fact we’re pretty sure we once stood on either side of the same person (Ally Cook of Dot to Dot fame) who, however, neglected to introduce us to each other. Not wanting to sound like I regretted not having met Martijn earlier (I don’t) I quickly added that it was best this way. Had we met earlier we would, most likely, have become friends and never thought to fall in love with each other.
That made someone comment that “it was meant to be”. Which made me stop for a moment, and think to myself. “Hmmmmm”. (A particularly deep thought, as I am sure you will agree.)
Perhaps I would be fine with saying that (in fact I used to say it myself) had we lived happily ever after the day we met in London, as we thought we would. Except it didn’t work out that way. A couple of months later Martijn came to Athens, stayed for a week, and got absolutely terrified of the future before he left; while I got a flu I never quite got over for a year and a half. Martijn was stressed, unsure of himself, scared and breaking down more and more often while I felt vaguely or not-so-vaguely sick for months on end. There were terrible arguments. The screaming of ugly things. Sleepless night trying to make up (often on the phone). Endless one-sided conversations trying to understand. And more breaking down. The throwing of objects. More breaking down. The shouting of even worse things. And more breaking down. (I am not exaggerating one bit.) Sometimes it seemed as soon as we made up Martijn would start sulking again, closing the world off, pushing me away. The two months following our wedding contained some of the worst moments of my life (and there is considerable competition). It often looked like it was never going to end, and the breaks between the bad spells became shorter and shorter, almost non-existent. And then, miracle of miracles, we moved to England and it suddenly, surprisingly, got a lot better. It hasn’t stopped, and it still needs to get a ]better, but it is decidedly, unarguably, very much better.
But was it meant to be? Was Martijn meant to shout at me that I should go away and die because I deserved it? To throw soy milk all over the kitchen floor? To hit his head with the iron and come to me with blood running down his face? (It was only a tiny scratch, by the way.) Were we destined to a year and a half of intense unhappiness following a short spell of profound happiness? Were our hopes meant to be dashed, our faith in each other and ourselves and the world tried through and through?*
I don’t think so. What I do think is that people confuse “meaningful” with “meant to be”. Meeting Martijn was meaningful in very many ways, and the events that led up to it only made it even more so. The way we met, the way we got closer and closer, what we felt for each other, how it made the world look, the things that it made happen, even the dismal ones I have described above: they are all fraught with meaning. They contain beauty waiting to be seen and lessons waiting to be learned and messages waiting to be carried off into the future. They say a lot about me, him, and the world. Each one of them happened for a reason. But they were not meant to be. Either one of us could have made a different choice somewhere along the way.
*(Most stupid thing I have heard as a reply to a description of this situation: “it keeps you appreciating what you have”. To be fair, it was a well-meaning comment by a nice person who just happened to be having a momentary lapse in brain functioning. There’s no other explanation, is there?)
Sunday, November 12, 2006
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:39 pm
Last Sunday Dawn wrote a post on adoption, faith and the concept of something being ‘meant to be’ that made a lot of things fall into place for me. An awful lot of things, which is why I don’t know where to start from. And Dawn always throws the ball back at the reader at the end (a quality I don’t come across often enough in this world) which got me wanting to write about it, even though, obviously, I have not been involved in any adoption whatsoever. I just think that, when you get down to the essence of things, it doesn’t really make a difference whether it is adoption you are talking about or something else. (In this case, of course — not in general.)
Now that I’ve made a start, let’s get two awkward facts out of the way. One, my dad is a bastard who has been emotionally abusing the whole family in general, and me in particular, since he first got the chance to. And two, I have always had some issues with the concept of reincarnation. Not the idea itself, mind you: it seems (feels) reasonable enough, that is to say it makes sense, and I’m pretty sure the fact that a lot of religions point in that direction is not accidental either. All in all I am rather convinced that we do go through multiple incarnations on this planet, as much as I think one can be convinced of such things. (Which is quite a lot, but not entirely, as I will, I hope, make clear.)
Are you with me so far? Okay. Let’s complicate things a little more.
While living in Athens I spent time with the people I called the crazy psychologists, who seemed to believe that there probably is no such thing as reincarnation; or, at least, that believing that you chose the circumstances in which you were born “weakens you”. That is a little hard to explain; let’s just say they consider your strength in life to be directly proportionate to the respect you have for those to whom respect is due. By thinking that you chose your parents you put yourself in a position “above them”, which, according to them, is one of the worst things you can do. (It goes without saying that saying that your father is a bastard wasn’t considered a very good idea, either. Let’s say I didn’t quite agree with everything said there. Too many things to respect, not enough thinking, I thought.)
While living in Exmouth, on the other hand, I spend a lot of time with Steiner people. Who, as you may know, hold the idea of reincarnation pretty close to their hearts, or at least to the centre of the world view. They talk not only of life after death but of life before birth too (an idea often neglected in the rest of the world, it seems); of choosing the people we are born to and the school we go to and the people we meet in later life. (And, somehow, I don’t quite agree with that either. Too much thinking, not enough respect for those things that are beyond and above us.)
While in Cornwall (for the course’s “residential induction”, or whatever staying in a farm in the middle of nowhere with the people you are going to spend three years with was called) the course tutor mentioned reincarnation as linked to the fact that everything is meaningful. I protested. (I protest a lot.) I am more than sure that there is a reason behind most things, if not everything, but I don’t think this has to be linked with reincarnation. He tried to explain, but he only made it worse:
“So if I, as a teacher, am I a pain to you, it may be because you have been a pain to me in a previous life”.
Which is precisely the part I have issues with. I think that if, as a teacher, you are a pain to me, it is because you’re not trying hard enough to be a good teacher. And if you are an abusive father, then, well — then you are a bastard in my book. It may be true that I chose to come to this family (in fact, I think it probably is) but I didn’t chose other people’s actions, and neither did God: they chose them themselves. Also, these choices weren’t all made and set in stone when I was born: they were made day after day after day (those days that make up twenty-five-and-a-half years). They could have been changed at any given point in time.
And the reason why I heart Dawn is because she managed to put all this into place with a handful of words, like this:
[Note: Madison is her daughter, and she is adopted; Jessica is Madison’s birth mother.]
I believe that our soul/energies get a lot of options outside this planet and that one of them is coming around here and trying on different ways of being human. I really feel that Jessica, Madison and I have known each other before and that this is the way we’re part of each other’s lives this time. It’s the only way I can explain the profound love/familiarity I feel when I’m around Jessica.
This doesn’t excuse all the things that made Jessica create an adoption plan – it’s not a shrug-your-shoulders excuse for injustice – it’s just how I feel our family manifested itself. And it doesn’t let me off scott-free either. Like I can’t blithely say, “It was meant to be!” and skip along my merry way ignoring the human consequences of my actions. It’s more complicated than that.
You know Judaism says it kinda doesn’t matter what happens past this life – heaven, hell – it’s not up to us to worry about these things. We have to make our best possible efforts here, now. Our job here is to repair the world.
So there you go, it’s all clear now! We make choices. They are not directly, linearly linked to what happens to us in this life. They do not constitute an excuse, or –dare I say– even a reason for anybody else’s actions. Most importantly: whatever happens before or after this life is better left alone, or, at least, approached with great humbleness. That’s not to say we shouldn’t think of it. It just means I wouldn’t –I don’t– use it as a compass on how to live my life. While we’re here, our task is to concentrate on being here and doing our best at it: being true to ourselves, loving those who touch our hearts, being kind to those who don’t, and trying to make our little corner of the world a better place.
And for everything else, well — there will be a season.
[The soundtrack to this: Vashti Bunyan and, near the end, the Byrds.]
Monday, February 13, 2006
At least you’re not fighting with another boy
or, sing a song with the Triangles and one with the Snow Fairies
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 4:07 pm
I think I’m at least four posts behind on the books thread, probably a lot more. There’s a whole series of posts (on the relative merits of 2005) that I just didn’t do, not to mention all the day-to-day posting I could have been doing. And there’s a long story, entitled ‘anniversaries, autism and the fifth boy’, that I intended to write and post on the 19th of January, which was nearly a month ago…
When this sort of thing happens you can imagine me buried under a pile of unpleasant books, exam stress, endless, pointless family arguments, a lot of parental unpleasantness and a tonne of uncertainty about the future. A lot of looking for the boyfriend inside the boyfriend too; sulking, shouting and wondering; trying to understand why things happen. Like this:
We’re visiting a friend of mine at the restaurant where he works, and I am telling him all about my troubles. If this were my day off, he says — I interrupt: it is not our day off, we’re always off, or always on, depending on how you look at it — if I could leave this place anytime, he says — yes? — then I would go out, have a nice meal and get drunk and forget about everyone and everything. I translate to the boyfriend (said friend’s English isn’t very reliable so we were having the conversation in Greek) who is quietly, patiently sitting next to me and working (i.e. thinking of some very abstract, very complicated mathematical things) and what does he reply but:
“I’m not very hungry.”
You know, some times I have it in me to explain that this is not about being hungry but about having fun, getting drunk, ignoring the fact that we might not find a taxi home because of the snow, seeing what being crazy and careless feels like for a change, whatever — some others I don’t. Most times in fact I don’t even realise I need to explain, not for a few hours at least, so that’s where sulking, shouting and wondering comes in.
And then some laughing. We’ll make it through.
Because I think I’m doing okay. Despite everything. In fact, considering it is February, that is, the absolute rock bottom of any given year for me, and that the past year has strangely seemed to be the hardest one so far I’m not just doing okay, I’m doing brilliant. You know, I even smile when the sun is shining. And this got me dancing in the bus stop the other day. The boyfriend told me he had known about it since October. When I asked him why he had kept it a secret all this time he replied “You don’t read my blog!” (He is right by the way. They do sound like what I had hoped the Polyphonic Spree to do.)
One of the next songs to come on was by the Snow Fairies, and I have known it since October.
“- Every day we fight…
– I wouldn’t call it a fight.
– Every time you cry…
– Oh, there’s tears in your eyes for me.
– At least you’re not fighting with another boy!
– When I saw you last night…
– I have forgotten all of it!
– I couldn’t think of the words I wanted to say.
– I saw them all in your eyes.”
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
But he should have come out and talked
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:01 pm
Huffy Henry hid the day,
unappeasable Henry sulked.
I see his point, — a trying to put things over.
It was the thought that they thought
they could do it made Henry wicked & away.
But he should have come out and talked.
I came across this poem today. My head was cloudy when I did, it was late morning, early for me, lonely, sad – my first reaction was this doesn’t make any sense. I was straining my eyes to read it, my mind to accommodate it, and it wasn’t giving me anything back. What a waste of time, I thought. At the same time, somewhere within me was moving, shouting: I know this! I know it. You know it. It is this.
And yes, it is this: a metaphor for life with an autistic boyfriend. (Or, as I first typed: a boyfriend on the spectrum. One of us has been reading about this a lot, and it isn’t him.) Martijn hasn’t been diagnosed, so I’ve no idea how severely affected he’s supposed to be. Definitely not much, not much at all; and at the same time, quite a lot. Then there’s also the question he asked: “what do they measure? How well you can cope, or how hard it is for you to do so?” Which is a good point. He appears to be coping nearly perfectly; he isn’t. It is simple as that.
Equally simple is the fact that took me a year to realise (daft, daft me): autism, even a mild case of Aspergers, is not something that occasionally causes some problems. It is something you live with through every day, every minute. It’s not something that might cause the odd misunderstanding or ignite the odd argument. It is always there. Behind every thing I say or do and how it is perceived; everything he says and how it is expressed; everything he does and how it comes across. It defines how much he feels he is there, present in his own body, in this world of ours. It defines how much he feels there is a world out there.
(I’m not saying he doesn’t know it is there; but knowing and feeling are two different things.)
All the world like a woolen lover
once did seem on Henry’s side.
Then came a departure.
Thereafter nothing fell out as it might or ought.
I don’t see how Henry, pried
open for all the world to see, survived.
You shouldn’t explain poems, and you can’t, or I can’t, so I won’t. But I wanted to tell you how the idea of a “huffy boy hiding the day” is all too familiar. And I see his point. God knows I do. (Usually; I do run out of patience sometimes; in fact, I usually end up running out of patience, but that’s a different story.) I’ve no idea what “trying to put things over” is supposed to mean, but, to me, it means “tried to change the world, rearrange it, so that it fits him better.” And yes, yes, it is the thought that this is somehow possible (if I only knew where he got it from) that makes my Henry “wicked and away.” (‘Wicked and away’ is the best possible description of the other side of that sweet sweet boyfriend of mine.) But he should have come out and talked. And then things would have got so much better. Like the always are, when he does. But somehow he just can’t seem to do it.
The rest is a lot less straightforward, less appropriate even, but it still rings uncannily true. The world did seem on his side when he was young, and his family tended to put the blame on everyone and everything else when he couldn’t do something, never on him. Until he grew up, that is, and things inevitable changed, and he found himself in adult world that worked in ways he didn’t quite understand. “Nothing fell out as it might or ought.” How he survived through this, confused and alone –and unaware of this– I do not know.
What he has now to say is a long
wonder the world can bear & be.
Once in a sycamore I was glad
all at the top, and I sang.
Hard on the land wears the strong sea
and empty grows every bed.
But then one happy day he met me, and I was in love with the world. Desperately, passionately so. I got excited about everything from maple syrup on pancakes to clouds in the sky. I lived in my senses: a change of weather had the effect drugs allegedly have. The world was my lover. (“Once in a sycamore I was glad all at the top, and I sang.” My, did I love singing up there.) And so, through a long, long and confusing, confusing and disheartening, disheartening and occasionally desperate year it suddenly downed on my Henry. There is beauty in this life, and it’s worth being in love with it. And what he has to say now is, indeed, a big, “long wonder” on what “the world can bear and be”.
I’ve no idea what “hard on the land wears the strong sea” is supposed to mean, but perhaps it has to do with the tide, and how it comes and goes. Like morning comes, “and empty grows every bed.” Which means that things happen in time. And, in time, we will get through this.
Now, I’m sure John Berryman had none of these in mind, and would probably freak out were he alive to read this, but I don’t mind. So: thank you, John Berryman. And thank you, Clock’s Loneliness, too.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Anniversaries, autism and the kindness of strangers
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:50 pm
And then Monday came, and I woke up way too early. Again. I tried to fall back to sleep for an hour but it obviously wasn’t working, and it wasn’t much fun either. The sun was threatening to shine (again); Lupe was about to walk into the room smiling (again: she’s great like that); and if we got out of bed, into the shower, out of the house and into the bus to Waterloo early, we’d probably have time to go on the London Eye. Which, if you asked me, was an excellent idea.
“Boyfriend! Wake up! It’s Monday!”
Except boyfriend mumbled something grumpily, turned around sulkily, and the day went out of the window. It wasn’t as simple of course, nor as straightforward. I don’t abandon my intentions of having a happy Monday just because Martijn doesn’t feel like getting out of bed when I want him to. Most of the time, I don’t even mind. On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to celebrate an anniversary if you don’t have a boyfriend. And what I’m trying to say is that on that day, I didn’t.
Now, for you to understand the tides that shaped our London weekend –that shape our lives– I need to tell you something. And that is: Martijn is –as I put it– somewhat autistic. By somewhat I mean he is pretty mildly affected; so mildly, in fact, that it had gone unnoticed until recently. Or, well, almost unnoticed. He was considered strange, but no one thought it was a big deal (and then he went on to become a mathematician, and so he was surrounded by people who were often even stranger). And, well, really, it wasn’t a big deal. Except if you started adding all the little things up, joining the dots. Or looking under the surface. Or asking hard questions. Especially, asking hard questions under stressful circumstances.
Then it slowly became apparent that there might be something missing. A deeper understanding of things perhaps. Confidence in the ability to make sound decisions based on feelings and judgement. Instinct. The boy himself sometimes. I’d ask a question and get an answer that corresponded to another question. Or an answer that sounded right but somehow wasn’t. It’s not hard to tell when someone’s heart isn’t in what they are doing, is it? Martijn’s heart wasn’t in being here in this world a lot of the time.
It was frustrating as hell.
It still is, for that matter. Especially if it is 365 days since we first met, and I like celebrations. Even more so since approximately 300 out of said 365 days have been long, and hard, and I still like celebrations. I longed for something to celebrate. I wanted to look back at it all –the train station story, the year– and say yes again, and again. But the sun was shining, we were in London, off work on a Monday and we had a bit of money to spend — and I didn’t have anyone to say it to (metaphorically, but still very tangibly so), even though I tried. (Believe me, I tried.)
So I shouted. First on a bus that went to Old Street instead of Liverpool Street, then, soon afterwards, on a street in Shoreditch. Then, later on, on the empty upper deck of a double-decker bus through Oxford Street. (Oddly, that was kind of fun. At least, it felt like we were in a film or a book.) Then on Oxford Street. I ended up (later on still) crying desperately, unconsoleably, against a pillar just off the corner of Oxford and Orchard street, wishing I could find a way to stop. Find something –anything– that would make that wrecked day, that trying (beautiful, but trying) year seem a little better. Something that would rearrange things in my head just enough to make them look a little brighter.
So I cried. Until some random driver who was waiting for the lights to change shouted “excuse me” out to Martijn (who had been standing uselessly on my side, at a loss for something to do) and handed him some napkins. It was so unexpected, so sweet, so touching, and so much like a television commercial, that I just had to stop crying and start laughing. Which did the trick: it got the day going again. We looked around a shop or two, caught a bus for a long bus ride, had a panic attack in an organic supermarket (when I discovered I had to come up with a new idea for something to cook in 15 minutes – and it had to be greek, sweet and vegan), and ended up baking a cake at midnight, which was crazy but fun and made my memories smell of cinnamon and cloves and orange peel.
It didn’t save the day. It definitely didn’t save the year. It didn’t change the fact that what we have is not exactly a relationship but rather fragments of one tied together on a string, with lots of empty space in between. It didn’t make it any easier that there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about that. But it kept me going, and there must be a reason for that. It might be that I am, by definition, an optimist, constantly thinking that things will get better tomorrow. It might be that I am stubborn, and I don’t like to take no for an answer. Or it might be because those fragments of a relationship are just about perfect, and it would break my heart to let them go.
Or it might just be that I do believe in love.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Will you marry me?
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:29 am
If the rest of Saturday (the post-phone call part) was a roller coaster, Sunday was just plain nice. (Even though I felt sick for half of it.) We had breakfast with our hosts in a diner, went to Spitafields Market with my cousin and to a free gig in a pub with the “aforementioned boy” from Wednesday’s post, and Martijn was impeccable through most of it. The perfect boyfriend I used to think I had. It felt so great that I joked I’d send his dad a Christmas card, thanking him from the bottom of my heart for helping my boyfriend grow up.
It felt particularly great because it promised that Monday –the day of our ‘anniversary’– would be as great. I suddenly felt I had a lot to celebrate.
I say ‘anniversary’ because it’s not, technically, the first day of anything. We fell in love gradually, over the internet: it took longer than a month, and even though there are a couple of day –nights– that stand out in the process, they never felt the right days to celebrate. We first met in London, on a Friday –December 10th– and the world stopped turning for a few seconds on that day; and yet that didn’t feel like the start of something either. I settled on the following the 12th –the following Sunday– because it was a day we spent entirely together (riding buses and wandering around, mostly) and it was as happy as fairy-tale ending, as easy as playing out.
And because at the very end of it –at 3 am on Monday morning, in fact, but let’s not be too strict about it– in a very cold and nearly empty Victoria station, while waiting for my train to Gatwick airport, Martijn told me about his grandparents: how they were over eighty, still together, and still in love. How his grandad wrote his grandmother notes saying “you’re the sweetest of them all”. And how he wants to grow up to be just like them.
I could see what he was saying but I could hardly believe it.
“I can’t imagine what that is like”
It was true. I couldn’t imagine it. I had no idea what it could be like.
“I’ll show you!”
I still couldn’t believe it.
“I mean, I will show you my grandparents, at least. If you want to.”
That was all he could say to stop himself from blushing wildly, and it didn’t work.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:25 am
Saturday morning. I woke up in London once, and I was happy. It felt like such a perfect morning: a long day of leisure stretching in front of us, the sun almost shining, perfect company sleeping in the next room. Martijn gets out of bed for a while, and on the way back I notice him looking at his phone.
“Did anyone text you?”
“Yes, my sister. She asks me if I can call them urgently.”
Uh oh. That doesn’t good. I don’t have time to worry about it though because he calls straight away — and starts crying soon afterwards. I don’t speak Dutch, so I spend the ten, maybe fifteen, minutes of the phonecall holding his hand. Staring at the blanket and wondering what has happened. Who has died. How I will ever console him — and how I will ever console if it is the baby. Then he hangs up.
“My dad has left my mum! He has a girlfriend.”
“Oh that’s good then!”
I didn’t really say that, but I was close enough. It did feel very good. Not for all the sober reasons with which I came up later (it was time something changed, and they will all be better off in the long run, find themselves, become stronger, learn to rely and believe in the right things — believe me, I know: my dad’s a lot worse) but for the mere fact that they were all alive. Healthy. No one had accidently run over an old lady while driving home, no one’s house had burned down and the baby still intended to join us in a few months.
Disrespectful as may sound, I still think it’s good.