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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my funny Valentine

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It’s like something out of a movie. Boy and girl meet in primary school, cue the meet-cute music, and become best friends. She defends him from bullies, he invites her over for dance parties. They share secrets and feel like finally they have a friend who understands them. Then suddenly, without a word, he’s gone. Vanished back to his hometown and they lose each other. With the arrival of social media they try to find one another, but both use aliases! Until facebook. There’s an email and a teary reunion, nine years since they’ve seen each other as children, and they still have so much in common and he’s happening to be visiting in ten days for the first time in four years. Cue the meeter-cuter music. They spend the day together, it’s perfect. And then the story really begins.

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I think both of us have spent far too many moments pondering the eternal question ‘no seriously how is this my life?!‘ but in the past ten years since we reconnected, and nearly twenty since we first met, it really has played out like a dream come true. And it never ceases to humour and astound us how much discursive trouble our relationship gets us into.

Valentine’s Day is traditionally an occasion for romantic couples, which we are not, but here’s the big deal: I don’t care what capitalist codswallop flogging the inadequacies of my independence have to remark, nor how many other people are vying for the delight and privilege of being your Valentine. You, Phoenix, are my Valentine. So this one’s for you…and for those of you playing along at home, still cluing in as to how a committed relationship between two platonic parties could possibly be a thing.

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It’s always such a thrill to hear people bandy about words like love and trust about people they’ve known for all of three orgasms. But deep unyielding trust builds over time, and is strengthened, not shrunk, after being fractured. I can’t say we’ve fought, but we’ve thrived through drama and disappointment by being open beyond our own pride and getting to the root of what we need from each other to move forward, and delivering that to the best of our ability. She often tells me she’s not scared of my darkness, and I know I’ve shed some light on hers.

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Compatibility often comes down to having the right things in common, and the right things in contrast. We’ve both been through very similar things in our lives, but have grown from those in different ways. It’s that typical ’rounding out’ where we can rely on each other to provide the perspective we need honestly, knowing that the time will come around we’ll need to hear it back to us. One of the best parts of our relationship is the freedom to challenge each other and ask for what we want from each other, and expect participation to make that happen.

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Then of course, it helps to have a healthy serving of laughter. Seriously lady you make me laugh like a loon on loon tablets. You have split so many of my sides, and we take almost psychotropic delight when we do pressure down. I think this really is the key, is that ability to not only drop down into the deepest discussions and despairing equations, but also find each other far funnier I fear than we may actually be. Oh well.

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Then there’s of course the thing that takes a relationship from stable, from fruitful, to pure sparkle: encouragement. As much as we challenge each other, we know how to encourage and celebrate each other. Goodness knows that has transcended to the odd bit of financial support as well. I once told you that the only way I was ever going to meet someone is if they took a look and went “yeah, what a weirdo, that’ll work!” and your response was that the right person doesn’t actually find you weird at all, they just love you right off the bat. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

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While we’re on the topic of meeting people, I appreciate that it’s complicated to make sense of why two people who love, support, co-habit and plan a future together can not be having sex, but here’s the secret: WHEN IT IS BEDTIME, WE DON’T DO IT. We are more than willing, in fact we’re hoping, to accommodate a person in each other’s lives who brings that romance, intimacy along with love and support. But how people can expect that once you hook up with one of us, that the other goes off duty, or that our years and years of trust and trauma will conveniently scatter to the wind will always confound me. The happiness we craved and cried for, we have found with each other, and there’s no chance in hell we’re giving it up; we’ll transform it to involve other people and share the love and happiness, but to love us means to love the parts of us the other has helped to build. So be grateful and lets get to kissing!

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Most people who know me understand that I struggle with the whole ‘together’ thing and due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, I’ve historically not been involved in too many relationships. I’m still coming to terms with what it means for us to be in each other’s lives, because I fall into the same traps of not seeing us for what we are, soulmates. The reality is that if we were same-sex partners, everyone would be on board. But we’re not, and that permits us to find other means to create value in our relationship. Who knows what the future holds for us, but here’s all that needs to be known:

Phoenix, you make me happier than far too many people wanted me to believe I could be. You make me excited for the future, and your presence gives me the strength to tackle so many things. Your honesty has helped my friends be bolder with me, your caring has helped my family relax about my choices, and I just think you’re all about it. I love you Brow Bae. Crack Pussy. Vvife. P. Phi. You’re it.

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PS thank you to every reader who has reached out. I know these latest ones have seemed a little self-served, but I need to do that at the moment. Establish myself, evacuate those things about me I want to share. It’s part of a bigger picture I promise. I also promised I wouldn’t do announcement things, so just enjoy and please be one of those people who feels encouraged to be you and fight for whatever makes you happy and contributes to the happiness of the collective. We need that. Happy Valentine’s Day.

B.

PS. Babe 11 years is jewellery. Or if you count the lost years, 28 is orchid!

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