Too Much

I fear I am too much for this world. I am all self-indulgent extremes. Ironically, I have been too ashamed of my too-muchness, made an example of by others who have always felt compelled to point out my excesses in disapproving and accusatory tones. For others, I’ve been it all.

I have been too hard – too impatient, too irritable, too aggressive, too ruthless.

I have been too soft – too emotional, too sensitive, too passive, too trusting.

I have been too dark – too sad, too negative, too pessimistic.

I have been too light – too happy, too optimistic, too dreamy.

I have been too much.

Of everything.

For everyone else.

And I’m learning to love myself there because I’m not the only one.

Very recently, I met a girl. She was walking alone along a country lane in Cornwall, wearing her pyjamas and a dressing gown, slippers shuffling along in the gravel, and she was sobbing uncontrollably. She could barely breathe. The thing that broke my heart (again, too much – too easily broken) is what came out of her mouth after she had found her tongue.

‘I just need to learn to control my emotions. This always happens. I’m just too emotional.’

Her boyfriend had already fled the scene with a back pack hanging off his right shoulder. I had heard him yelling at her. I had also seen his cowardly tail slinking away, leaving the girl alone and wailing on the side of the road. She was too much for him, this one, this too emotional woman who clearly loved him.

Even more recently, I arrived at my grandparents’ house in England, the one I haven’t visited for five years. The house is different now, of course. One of my grandparents is gone. She has moved on to greener pastures, but her chair is still there, where it always was, where it always will be, until my Grandad chooses to join her. Even without her body here, her presence is commanding. She fills the space. Her energy envelops the entire house from the foundations to the chimney top. Some would say she was too much. And I suppose she was if I really think about it. But she was too much in all the right ways, all the most glorious and comforting ways. She was too loving, too welcoming, too friendly, too trusting, too loud, too funny, too nurturing.

She was too much, and she was perfect.

And so, I find myself wondering about my own emotional extravagances, and about others like me, others who are too much. Could it be that there’s nothing wrong with us at all? Could we, like my Nanna, be perfect in all of our dazzling imperfection? Because that woman got too much just right. She was loved for it by her tribe, and she was dismissive of the people who didn’t understand it. Too dismissive, in fact. Too cut-throat.

And, as for the sobbing girl from the edge of the street in Cornwall, she was told, unequivocally, that she was not too much. There is no such thing. And if the little boy who had left her alone believed she was, it was not for her to analyse or to fix. The loss was entirely his. That poor, pathetic boy who could not meet this woman where she was at, could not cherish all of the many things she was, could not love her in all of her magnificent too-muchness, was the one who should feel ashamed. She may have been too much for him, but she won’t be too much for a man willing to love her wholeheartedly. She will be met eye-to-eye, in her splendid too-muchness, and she will be cherished for all of her passionate and indulgent extremes.

After all, this is the point, when all is said and done – to love our own superabundance, those of us who are too much, to find other kinfolk who love us just as we are, and to love them ferociously, in return.

Even if it is too much.

Especially if it is gloriously, brilliantly, too much.

Job Done

When I woke up this morning, Karma was not in bed next to me. And yet, here he is this evening. Silent, expectant, ticking almost imperceptibly. Karma has me in his sights tonight. He will not be satisfied until I have crossed his palm with the gold he has loaned out to me, until a pound of my flesh has balanced the scale. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, the settling of an ancient debt. Plus interest.

Karma is dark and he is brooding, but he is also light and carefree. He is masculine and she is feminine, more masculine today for he is chasing an awkward repayment. He is dealing with stubborn clientele. He needs to be masculine today. I would likely slay him where he lay should he even remotely resemble the feminine at this moment in time.

Earlier today, but after the jubilant expectancy of a resplendent weekend had been cut off at the knees in its infancy, a piece of paper in an envelope spoke to me. The envelope said so much more than the paper inside, wrinkled with the lines of her writing, caressed by the heel of her hand. The envelope screamed and cried and flailed. I knew more from that vicious and merciless envelope than anything new I discovered from her letter.

The envelope told me she was gone. The letter told me she had left a long time ago.

More recently, the telephone spoke to me and it hijacked her voice (for surely that was not really her?) and it said,

“I’m in a car, driving…somewhere.”

 Somewhere? Where is somewhere? Somewhere is not here and here is somewhere so where are you? And more to the point, who are you with? The telephone spoke again (in her voice),

“You don’t want to know.”

No, I don’t want to know and yet, I know, which brings me back to my original point. Life isn’t always fair, and sometimes you know things you don’t want to know, and sometimes you end up somewhere when you should be here, and I know something I don’t want to know so play fair and uphold your end of this bargain.

Be here. Not somewhere. With him who I don’t want to know about.

Karma has been very accommodating today. He has been extremely sympathetic. I know because, even tomorrow, those few words, in her hijacked voice, will be the only words I vividly remember coming out of the telephone. There will be a vague recollection of tears, and of not having knees to support my legs, and of my heart leaping from my mouth and running away to be with the faeries who will pack it in ice, and still won’t quite have finished returning it, even years later. Karma has taken the sting off the avalanche that is my edges falling and tumbling and burying me in their wake. He has caught me a bubble and placed me inside it so that reality is on the outside, and the bubble is a forever space.

But here he is. He wants me back, now. I have had my sympathy, and now he wants to burst my precious bubble. So here, Karma, take this. This is your compensation:

I accept the terms of our agreement. I accept that this was always our contract. She was always meant to leave, and I was always meant to be the one who felt like I had been left behind, just as I inevitably left her behind once, who knows how many lifetimes ago.

Karma looks at me carefully, kisses me square on my mouth, lights a cigarette, and rolls over. He’ll be asleep soon. Satisfied.

Job done.

All the Little Boys, All the Little Girls

I once knew a boy desperate to be a man. He showed up with little commotion (I should have guessed even then), and I knew he wasn’t the right fit.

I knew I was too much.

I knew he wasn’t enough.

I did that thing that vulnerable people sometimes do, and I allowed him to convince me, and then I convinced myself until I had spent the better part of a decade trying to bend and flex my boundaries, my values, my self-worth. I made excuses for his deficiencies and his cruelty, trying to make him live up to the golden and reverent version of him I carried with me in my mind’s eye. The version where he was a kind man with no deep, dirty secrets, and he truly loved me. The version where he was an unbroken man who was loyal and honest and accountable. The version where he was a man.

It was always going to disappoint us both. Because this is what I’ve discovered recently – I wanted a man, and he wanted a little girl. I’ve learned that the boy that I lit up and elevated, the boy I used to tell myself was pure and kind and respectful, hated women.

At home, he played his part like a fiend, convincing at times, entirely transparent and flawed at others. For the most part, he did all the right things at the right times, he said all the right words, he felt all the right feelings. Because he was being watched. Because there were witnesses. One witness, actually. One dreamer, one idealist, one pathetic little doormat who knew it was all a fragile, self-destructive illusion, but chose to live her life as if the carriage was about to be thrown from the tracks anyway. But when that naïve, deluded doormat wasn’t watching, the boy strutted around like a peacock, showing his true colours to all and sundry. He objectified women and embarrassed himself in the company of other peacocks, peacocks who were men and who were ashamed of the infant they called a friend. The boy disrespected women and viewed them as meat, fodder for his distastefulness, leering and spitting lewd comments about their bodies and what he would do to them (as if he was somehow God’s gift to all of womankind; as if he could actually do anything about it). Out in the open, he wanted his women to be sluts. He wanted them dirty. He wanted them submissive, to do what they were told, to go where they were put. He wanted women who wouldn’t argue and who wouldn’t fight. Little girls in porn star packaging.

At home, he behaved like a good boy, well-trained and obedient (later claiming it was me who had somehow beaten him into submission). That boy who had the capacity to transform women into acquiescent objects of contempt, passive vessels he could pour his hatred into, became vacuous and immobile at home where there was a witness. He always told me it was the people who talked the most about their sex lives that didn’t have one to speak of, and he proved his point thoroughly. Out in the open, he was virile and eager, shamelessly sniffing out new bones to place beneath him. At home, where there was a woman, he was paralysed and frigid; a little boy.

But, in his defence, he wanted a little girl. He wanted someone who wouldn’t challenge him, someone who would say yes, someone who would sweep it all under the rug with the rest of his secrets and lies. He wanted a girl who would lie down, keep her mouth shut, and let him hate her the way he hated all women.

He wanted a little girl, but what he got was a woman. A fierce, independent, honest, hurricane of a woman, and it terrified and repulsed him in equal measure. He got a woman who expected more from him, expected more for herself. He got a woman with courage, a woman with balls. He got a woman who was more man than he could ever dream of becoming.

It was always going to disappoint us both.

Fossil

Everyone has stories they’d rather not tell, stories they aren’t proud of, stories that leave them unbearably vulnerable, naked and exposed. The thing about being an author though is that at some point, if you want to be authentic, you have to share your own shadow side.

This is a chapter of mine.

The sky fell down today. Everyone who ever said it wouldn’t has been made a liar. It has fallen out of the atmosphere where it was perched majestically, and its dense, azure pieces, jagged and haphazard, have collected heavily at the bottom of my stomach. They are rubbing at my insides right now, grating and scratching. Inside, I am a million tiny cuts and nicks. I have swallowed glass. I am torn apart and messy, my soul bleeding out, slowly. It is oozing forward like lava into my organs, hot and pulsing. I am a puddle. I am ceasing to exist.

How is it that when the sum of my life’s parts has catastrophically imploded and crumbled in on itself, when my universe has retracted back to a single atom, all thought and memory and deed and emotion humming electrically at its point of origin, the rest of the world continues on? How dare these people, little ants in a maze with no centre, so self-important and determined, carry on with their lives? How dare life itself continue? My life, comparatively, has been snap frozen like an ancient animal in the icy past. Later, all they will find of me will be fossilised. A relic. My story decomposed. No one will know how I got here. How life drew on, infinitely without me while I waited in this particular moment of time, praying I would wake up from a nightmare I did not choose. Wasn’t even asleep for. No one will know that I stood still, mind racing, trying to comprehend, desperately scratching at rational thought, waiting. No one will know that even in the middle of this monumental collapse, this folding of my world in on itself, I thought the best of you, I saw the good in you, I believed in you. No one will know that at my core, unmeasurable and unobservable by the time my tiny insignificant fossil is found, I loved you with every branch of my DNA, every breath in my body, every drop of marrow in my bones. No one will know but me, and possibly you, and we will take our stories with us and hold them close.

And maybe, as the sky was falling down around us, that was always the point.

Crumbs

I wrote this piece quite a few years ago for my two friends, Wendy and Tom. It’s called Crumbs

I believed in love then, and broken and bruised as I am (as we all are at one point or another) I still believe in it now. 

In a regular city, in a regular suburb, on a regular street, in a regular house, there lived a girl. This girl was not regular; far from it. This girl had the Universe on board, touched by the hand of her God.

But the Universe, and indeed, the Gods the Universe play house with, were obligated by the girl’s contract. They were bound to test her, to erase her, to break her, and then to show her the tools that would put her back together again. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were useless in the face of her restoration. This girl had her destiny for labourers.

So the girl made her way, her slow, deliberate way, leaving crumbs on the ground so she could make her way back home should she forget where she had come from, never imagining that the tiny, luminescent crumbs were not meant for her to follow back, but for something else entirely.

Over an ocean, somewhere else quite regular, there lived a boy. This boy was not regular; far from it. This boy had the Universe on board, touched by the hand of his God. You know how the story goes. This boy, too, had signed a contract with his God that called for tests and challenges and broken bodies thrown into lion’s dens. And this boy, like the girl, rose up and burst forth into a life earned, a life justified.

In the short story version, he crossed an ocean and saw a path. And the path had tiny, luminescent crumbs on it.

And he followed.

One day, in a regular city, in a regular town, on a regular street, the crumbs stopped, and the boy had no more nourishment for he had been feeding on these crumbs and putting his broken shell back together again. Yet he did not thrash about or gnash his teeth or stamp his feet. This boy was treading gently in the world and he knew the world would respond in kind.

One day, in a regular city, in a regular town, on a regular street, the girl was saving her crumbs up. She had only one piece of her shell to glue back into the jigsaw puzzle of her soul, and she was not rushing. This girl was treading gently in the world, and she knew the world would respond in kind. The girl was living, head down, business face on.

And then she looked up, and she saw him, strangely familiar. And she stopped. And then he stopped. And then the world stopped for here they were, meeting on the same path they had both helped to build; her leading the way, him laying the bricks.

The girl asked him, ‘Where have you been?’

And the boy responded, a fleck of shimmering crumb left over on his tongue from his last feast, ‘Waiting for you.’