stop right now. thank you very much.

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this blog contains triggering content regarding abusive relationships, mental illness and personal trauma.

the tattoo is an acronym for ‘be good to yourself x’ as a reminder i have perhaps unwisely placed somewhere I don’t get to see often enough for it to be effective. my twenty-eighth year wrapped up recently and a fucktonne happened in that year – the best and worst – but looking back it was characterised by a strange resurgence of feeling past my prime, and feeling somewhat unimpressed with how i was turning out, although as the year progressed there was unfathomable achievements and risks paying off. so my attitude toward myself needed significant adjustment. and this blog is about that.

the last song to play at Consent Festival – unquestionably the biggest and happiest of those achievements – was ‘Voices Carry’ by 1980’s new-wave band ‘Til Tuesday. It’s a song about an abusive relationship, and a need to be heard, and to be loved. After a day of incredible accomplishment by the team who made the event happen, and a deeply personal sense of gratitude for the dream that I had somehow coming true, it didn’t feel like the most serendipitous final song to be playing as we celebrated our successes. At best it was ironic that a song about abuse and silencing should close a day of community exploring what consent means in different contexts and different embodiment. Over the days that followed I unwelcomely couldn’t get the song out of my head – it haunted me and I couldn’t figure out why I was not only obsessed with it, but feeling catharsis in listening to it over and over. After coming down off the back of such a massive undertaking on top of completing a Master’s degree, family tragedies, cancelled opportunities and having to accept a great deal of help to survive as I lost one job with none to follow it, I took two weeks away for contemplation and discipline, during which time I realised that the reason the song felt so powerful is because the relationship in the song is not unlike the relationship I have with myself.

“he wants me / but only part of the time / he wants me / if he can keep me line”

I know I’m not alone. So many people hear songs like this about relationships and discover the relationship it reminds them of is internal, inescapable, infinite. It was a heartbreaking discovery when my mind turned within itself and cried for a halt to how brutal and cruel I was being in my efforts to meet the expectations I have of myself. A dear friend made similar remarks to me some months ago about how perfectionism and ambition had mutated into a deeply unfair interpretation of what I “should”, what I “ought”, what “by now”, what “when I”, and how much of my worth I place on the doing, not the being, which is far closer to 100% than is healthy or helpful to me or the people around me. mindlessness, in the form of mindless pursuit, mindless panic, mindless distraction, mindless desperation, mindless escapism, mindless existentialism, it all leads to misery. my attempts to be more mindful as I spent the last days of my twenty-eighth year incarnated this way led to the exposing of so many Pandora’s Boxes in my psyche, and my inability to avoid them or externalise them as I would normally due to being on a meditation retreat allowed me to see some patterns. namely three key foes to my mental health. maybe you’re familiar with them, and how they stand between you and an equal, respectful, joyful relationship within yourself.

FURY
it occurred to me that I am angry. not necessarily at anything. but over time I’ve stored up frustrations and fumes, indignation and injustice because to express these things in public can label you a whole bunch of things I was scared to have attached to people’s impression of me: instability, aggression, unprofessionalism, and even masculinity. the thing is that when you don’t address things, when your anger doesn’t do its job of affirming your boundaries, it doesn’t dissipate over time. It absolutely lurks and compounds like lightning in a bottle. you take it out on yourself at every turn because it’s the easiest place for your anger to go. And technically you’d rather beat yourself up than risk hurting anyone else – although it’s likely they can tell you’re keeping your honest feelings from them and i wonder if approaching being mad about something, if addressed vulnerably and respectfully could actually generate more intimacy than privatising your reticence until it becomes rage and resentment and eventually ruins all your relationships. “you claim that I’m a handful when you show up all empty handed / the way you say you love me like you’ve just been reprimanded”.

FEAR
the role of fear and fury in my life is a bit of a chicken and egg equation. they go hand in hand. there is much in this world i know i at times decide to fear: dying alone, the dangers of the modern world, causing upset or offence, sex, and of course the two big ones: on the one side failure, and on the other success. long have i feared making a ‘decision I couldn’t take back’, which is the result of being traumatised and summarily blaming oneself for being in ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’ and ‘getting yourself into that situation’. but as much as we fear failing at what we try, there is far too much comfort in the familiarity of failing and the ability to both vindicate and vilify yourself simultaneously, beating yourself senseless and believing it’s the best way to learn from your experiences. except at the same time you know failure is the most potent key to success. but success means continuing to gamble, and being willing to have things to lose. the understanding goes that when afraid, people exhibit the fight, flight or freeze response. the thing is a fight will eventually dissolve, and flight will result in some landing somewhere, but freezing can go on forever, stasis and stillness and stuckness can last a lifetime. “and i know you can’t tell me / so I’m left to pick up the hints, the little symbols / of your devotion”.

FANTASY
a couple of years ago now during what would prove to be a terrible yet transformative time, I wrote a poem with the line ‘I don’t want to die full of ideas’. I can be angry with myself to the point of imagined violence, and I can render myself immobile with fear of the consequences of expressing myself, but this third enemy is the most insidious because it feels good to dream, to revel in the pleasure of ideas and creative imaginings. I don’t need to grow in terms of my sexual journey because I can dream up a love like I hear in the songs. I don’t need to run the risk of making the art when I can just picture how it would work and how good an impact it would have if I did it. I don’t need free myself from my self-imposed shackles if I just live in the delusion and reputation of being an impresario of some innovation, but not necessarily excellence or follow-through. recently an artist I know called me ‘ephemeral’, to mean that I am a joy that comes and goes so quickly from the worlds I touch, and I’ve heard that from many mouths. Comparisons to Glinda the Good or Mary Poppins, ‘he comes and sprinkles his fairy dust and its’ fantastic and then he’s off somewhere new and exciting’. it’s a compliment that cuts both ways, and while I need to see the good in it and follow the flow of the universe, I also need to find space and consistency to deliver what I dream. “now there’s no point in placing the blame / and you should know I suffer the same if I lose you / my heart will be broken”.

they say relationships take work, for all that they should come naturally, and the longer you know somebody the easier it is to fall into habit and harm. well you’ve known yourself your whole life, so make of that what you will. these three foes of fury, fear and fantasy each putrify my presence within myself and on my own behalf. they manifest as disordered eating, PTSD symptoms and angst, mania, vagary, inability to commit. they need interrogating and the space to voice their purpose so the unfinished business can be managed. As much as I detest quoting Sex and the City, there’s no way I could make the point without plagiarizing, and so my philosophy about relationships truly realizes that “the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself”.

so as I turn twenty-nine my gift to myself is a renewed pledge, a strengthened vow to cherish myself body, mind, spirit in the spirit of forgiveness, compassion, fulfillment. and a happy fucking Valentine’s Day to boot. wow. twenty-nine. “so glad we made it / look how far we’ve come my baby”

Big love.
B.

 

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don’t you know that you’re toxic?

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Some people come into our lives like bombs. Like their love is a threat. While our lives crumble around us, we focus intently on this little device, trying every way we can think of to decode, diffuse, disarm it, all the while knowing how probable it is that it will explode in our faces. Our friends flee, our families are crushed by falling rubble, our enemies shrug, and our future selves weep watching us. But we chip away, clipping wires, buying time. Like lives depend on it.

Imagine how things would be if instead of expending all that energy working/worrying/chasing/negotiating/pleading with that landmine love, we spent it on ourselves? And on the love we know we have? Imagine.

We take to that explosive like there aren’t millions of other people out there who could treat us so much better, when truly there’s no need to lose our youth and innocence when we know it’s only going to burn. So much hope we have for what we do possess, so little faith we have in who we are and what we could have if we believed we deserved it.

But the truth is an explosive too. Compared to that little bomb, the truth rains nuclear throughout our lives when it hits. A dreadful analogy to be sure, but when you know what horror some people have faced, how can you continue to accept the horrific behaviour of someone you owe nothing. Perhaps you owe them the freedom to understand the consequences. Perhaps you owe them the glory of you, fully realised and flourishing, not for them to be bitter about or saddened by, but proud they know when to give a good thing up for it to become the best thing for all involved.

Amanda Palmer wrote about an old adage…
“A farmer is sitting on his porch in a chair, hanging out. A friend walks up to the porch to say hello, and hears an awful yelping, squealing sound coming from inside the house.
“What’s that terrifyin’ sound?” asks the friend.
“It’s my dog,” said the farmer. “He’s sittin’ on a nail.”
“Why doesn’t he just sit up and get off it?” asks the friend.
The farmer deliberates on this and replies:
“Doesn’t hurt enough yet.” 

And this adage was the truth that rocketed through my life, stripping my defences and excuses. And little by little, I am getting up. I am barking back. Because I’ve realised a couple of things:

That there is a big difference between “I am who I am” and “I do what I want”.
That in this big, wide world there is no worse thing than needless pain.
That once really is enough. And sorry is not.
That it’s OK if this time isn’t it. There will be more if you want more.
That it’s OK if this time is it, but you don’t want any.
That the only reason they know how to hurt me, is because I taught them.
That the only reason they continue to hurt me, is because I let them.
And that the reason we love toxic people, is because we think we’re asking a lot in return.

When it comes to love, I genuinely believe that “you can’t love me, until you’ve hated me”. If the love endures past the hatred, or if the love dissolves the hatred, then you know it’s real. If the hatred lingers, if it grows, if it forms into meanness, dismissal, violence or torment, then you know what you need to do. Put the bomb down, suck the poison from the wound, take a shower, forgive, forgive, forgive, and remember you did all of that because you know how to love you. And for all that it may sting, for all that it may sicken, for all that it may scar, isn’t that a good thing?

B.

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Portraits of a Heartbroken Head

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Hell isn’t just real, it’s necessary. And if you don’t want to be in it anymore, then don’t be. Remember that the difference between heaven and hell isn’t sin or faith, it’s simply which of them you have the strength to let your life be part of (and what you’re willing to do to build that strength. Are you contributing to happiness, kindness and choice? Or sorrow, pity and dominance? It’s always much more complicated than that, but for the moment simplify what it takes to resurrect your mind from pain, confusion and fear to, ultimately, love.

Mental illness and instability has been on my mind a lot these past weeks. In order to process some of those thoughts, I drew on my face and offer these seven images of it to you, along with my lyrical and ripe melodrama. In the hope that by doing so I can continue to live heaven, and spur those around me to keep the conversation honest, challenging and special to the journey.

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DIS/ARM
The beginning for me is the ability to distance my mind from my body, confuse the power structure between the two. For the mind to treat the body like its vessel is the most intimate form of domestic abuse. Eating becomes incidental, hatred of flaws intensifies, heart rate becomes rapid, heat floods and self-care eddies away. Some people feel this distance so consumingly they can take a blade to their body, or a rope, or pistol. Some people feel this distance so suppressive they turn those weapons on each other. It’s a simple difference between recovery and ruin: putting the weapon down.

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NOT/HER
It does always come back to blame, and the harder it is to handle the impact of your choices in the present moment, the further you will run to the past to apportion the harm of who you are outside of yourself. But your parents cannot resolve who you feel now, and your past cannot be anything other than how you reacted based on who you were at the time. You can resurrect it and make the past the present so you can reattempt a resolution, but redemption will always come from what you do now to transform the future for what it can offer not torture the past for what it can’t change.

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SYCO/PHANT
Ambition hurts. Dreams, when applied to the present day, can corrode at your sense of self-worth like an acid addiction. This doesn’t mean you should abandon all aspiration; it means who have in your one life a serious decision to make. Do you focus your energy on satisfaction, or gamble everything on getting the goal? Before you cut your path one way or another, better know yourself so you know you can take one road without regretting the mystery of the other. Your decision isn’t irrevocable, you can double back, but wandering between admiration of idols and fighting for survival will exhaust. Remember as well that some people would give their lives to have lived so long as to still be able to choose.

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DISS/EASE
Other generations call mine weak, and selfish. Apparently that will shock us back into a sense of ourselves that can forget our species’ history of corruption and pollution, that can withdraw from the enormity of the world that we’ve been thrust underneath the scrutiny of, completely exposed to. One mistake makes a meme and civilian turns to celebrity turns to suicide. With the connectivity of the modern age, came the anonymity with which people could gleefully and liberally dispense stigma upon each other to distract from the impending destruction of our planet, and our very selves. This waste of time, waste of soul will be the key to regret and the type of barbarous, murderous ignorance that the threat of stretches our brains beyond breaking point.

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FREE/BODY
Sex is as much the enemy as the remedy. No currency is as valuable, no robbery as abhorrent, no plane as politicised by every system from civil to religious. The limitations of our most basic understanding of our own mechanics is not far from personal feudalism, whereby the mind does not respond to the environment, but weaponises it. My explorations of sexuality have led to a diversity and discomfort for which I’m grateful because it is a kind of liberation my heteronormative counterparts cannot name as they struggle with respect for the bodies as elemental, evolving. They can only be swallowed up by fantasy.

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CHOICE/CHANGE
It is scientific fact that we are creatures of two components: chemicals, and storytelling. We can be slaves to the narrative we recite to ourselves which some disguise as prayer, others as pep talk, and as far as our emotions are concerned, the things we tell ourselves become truth. There is a distinct difference between spending our lives writing our own story, owning our own plot highs and lows, and copying out what others wrote about us in their story. Or we might just read other people’s biographies and pay no duty to our own opus. Taking control hurts because we know what we’re gambling. Losing control hurts far more because we don’t know what we’re gambling. Like the man caught between the two cliff faces, our lives depend on our faith in surviving any trial of mind. Regret is the ultimate killer.

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GIVE/LOVE
Bearing in mind that there is only one way to learn, and that for all your hardship is relative to you, incomparable to another person’s pain or suffering, the only driving force away from trauma or fear, is love. I don’t mean romance, or sex, or even friendship. I mean a willingness to fall on your face so hard your nose breaks when your nose is the only thing you like about yourself, and still believe that your relationship within can still be filled with laughter and care and compassion. There’s little more frightening than knowing that of all the love you have, none of it is your own. It is a basic need we must provide for ourselves, however that is calibrated. For me it’s eating, and appetite suppression has long plagued me as a symptom of self-loathing and disappointment in myself. What I didn’t know, is that this refusal to sustain myself in order to get where I wanted to go is precisely what stands in my way.

Thank you. Gratitude is our easiest gift to ourselves, as forgiveness is to others.
Share you. In whatever way that looks like for you, and permits your simplest happiness, and therefore your most remarkable survival of this incredible place.
Love you. I know I do.

B.