“No one would take me just as I was, no one loved me. I shall love myself enough, I thought, to make up for this abandonment by everyone. Formerly, I had been quite satisfied with myself, but I had taken very little trouble to increase me self-knowledge; from now on, I would stand outside myself, watch over and observe myself; in my diary I had long conversations with myself. I was entering a world whose novelty dumbfounded me. I learned to distinguish between distress and melancholy, lack of emotion and serenity; I learned to recognize the hesitations of the heart, its deliriums, the splendour of great renunciations and the subterranean murmurings of hope. I entered into exalted trances, as on those evenings when I used to gaze upon the sky of moving clouds behind the distant blue of the hills. I was both the landscape and its beholder: I existed only through myself, and for myself. I was grateful for an exile which had driven me to find such lonely and such lofty joys; I despised those who knew nothing about them, and was astonished I had been able to exist so long without them.”—SImone de Beauvoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter
“I made the brutal discovery that I had been wrong from the start; far from admiring me, people did not accept me at all; instead of weaving laurel crowns for me, people were banishing me from society. I was filled with anguish, because I realized that what people were reproaching me for, even more than for my present attitude, was the future that lay ahead of me: I would always be ostracized.”—Simone de Beauvoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter
“If in the absolute sense a man, who was a member of the privileged species and already had a flying start over me, did not count more than I did, I was forced to the conclusion that in a relative sense he counted less: in order to be able to acknowledge him as my equal, he would have to prove himself my superior in every way.”—Simone de Beauvoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter
“On the other hand, I had a very precise idea of what our relationship would be; I would feel for him a passionate admiration. In this respect, as in all others, necessity must govern the choice. My chosen one must, like Zaza, impose himself upon me, prove he was the right one; otherwise I should always be wondering; why he and not another? Such a doubt was incompatible with true love. I should be in love the day a man came along whose intelligence, culture, and authority could bring me into subjection.”—Simone de Beauvoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter
“As soon as ever I suspected, rightly or wrongly, that people were taking advantage of my ingenuousness in order to get me to do something, my gorge rose and I began to kick out in all directions.”—Simone de Beauvoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter
“I have often wondered what were the causes of these outbursts, and what significance they had. I believe they can be partly explained by an impetuous vitality and by a lack of all moderation which I have never grown out of completely.”—simone de Beauvoir, memoirs of a dutiful daughter
I feel like something’s broken at the moment, or missing. for the past week I’ve felt as empty and hollow as I always used to; I’ve felt like I’ve talked to people in such a way as to convince them i’m still there and yet I haven’t been. I don’t know what’s wrong with me that sometimes I sink far down enough that I can’t hear or feel people anymore, but that’s what happens. tonight is maybe the first day I’ve felt like anyone or anything is more real than how much I dislike myself, like I’ve felt like they could touch me.
and it’s weird, I always think I’ve gotten away from this; like i’m safe from all those times i’d be holed up in my room as a teenager with a whole phone full of people I could call, really, that I didn’t feel like I could. and those times would eat me up, and i’d feel lonelier, colder, it would feel more dark, and i’d do something stupid, and i’d end up in hospital.
and on Friday I did, yeah, I ended up in hospital. but in a lot of ways it wasn’t as brave as when I was a teenager, it wasn’t as deliberate, and I just let myself get weaker until I slipped into it. and the minute I was there I knew it wasn’t where I belonged, and I tried and tried to get out until I did, undetected. there are, were, only two people who know I was even there. my mum, and my housemate. and today my housemate said to me that the only thing she needed from me was a cuddle, that she wasn’t even angry, that she was glad I felt I could call her. and I tried not to cry when she said it in text and when she said it to me in person. could anything be more good than someone saying that to you? could anyone be more good than to say that? especially when none of this is their mess, when you’ve been trying to show only your good self to this person, and then they’ve had to deal with all this shit and still been kind. I feel like that is worth so much, I can’t even begin to describe how it makes me feel more broken in a way, more lost, to know that somebody would be such a strong anchor for me without any kind of recompense.
I haven’t seen my mum since. i’m seeing her tomorrow; and I have never been so scared of anything. there is so much history there; it’s been hanging over my head all weekend that I am going to have to be strong enough to take all the things she’s going to say to me tomorrow even though i’m not. she has every right to say them all; I know that, i’m not stupid, but I don’t think i’m in the right place to hear them. I will, anyway. I’ve been doing it from other people for ages. letting them tell me how fat i’m getting, or that everyone has been saying i’m just a drunk slut, or that my friends are the kind of people who just lie to people to make them like them. i’m at that point now where it’s tough to believe anything anyone says, where I feel alone and unknown, and I don’t even listen to my own narrative of self worth anymore. it’s been a long time since I felt this bad or unreachable, but i’m back here.
and in a strange way, at the same time, I know I don’t belong here. I don’t need to be kept in a hospital ward and talked to like shit by the staff. I don’t really believe all the fucking awful laddish banter i’m surrounded by that makes me feel like so much negative space. I have a narrative of self worth, and I normally say it loud, I normally believe it. I normally know what matters and what doesn’t. I don’t know how I’ve got so lost lately but I know that it hurts. that lately I can’t sleep; I lie awake at night trying to blot out all the things my head is telling me about how i’m not worth shit, about how I’ve not come very far and what I do doesn’t matter to anyone. sometimes what it boils down to is me lying there awake at night thinking about not wanting to upset people by being dead. there are always tears before bedtime at the moment. I wish I could say where this had come from, but I don’t know. I guess I’ve been being around the wrong people lately.
I need to focus more on as many small mercies as I can. I need to keep that text message frm my housemate. I need to remember what the hug we had earlier felt like. I need to think about the fact I know what someone killing themselves does to other people, cos of my late stepdad. I need to think about the fact my mother and brother haven’t done anything to deserve someone like me in their lives, but they’d feel worse if I wasn’t. I need to try and remember all those things that make me happy.
but speaking honestly, none of that makes it easier to be me. this is genuinely the worst I’ve felt in a long time. I get up and my skin crawls when I realize who I am and how my day will go. I look in the mirror and I put on my makeup and I still feel sick at how I look. I eat shitloads when people tell me i’m too skinny and then one day I get in the shower and feel so swollen that I don’t eat for a fortnight. I’ve forgotten how to have a concrete sense of self, I’ve forgotten that anchor that undercuts all this crap, but I keep the frivolous self and everyone keeps telling me things that they think I can take. for the past month I have sometimes eaten 5,000 calories a day, then gone two weeks without eating food. I am losing control over my own image, the same as I did when I was a kid. I can feel it flickering and moving underneath other people’s fucking breath.
and the worst thing is I know this shouldn’t be me. I thought i’d left every last bit of it behind me; I thought i’d developed coping mechanisms, gotten stronger. I thought my identity was concrete, I thought the therapy had done that. I thought the work I did on myself while my grandma was dying was proof of that pudding. but no. apparently not. apparently I can still boil down and away to nothing, be no more significant than the wisps of criticisms gone by still lodged in my head. I can still wake up in tears and not know why, I can still sometimes not sleep thinking about all the ways I could have been better, or lie awake thinking about all the things people have said about me over the week and wonder how I could have stopped them being said.
apparently it hasn’t gone. apparently I can still be so sad that I can’t remember why anything matters. I need to hold on to all those small things. I need to hold on to life. at least that is progress. at least that help I had when I was younger taught me fucking something.
sometimes it takes someone making fun of me for doing it for me to realize i haven’t written in ages. oddly i think it has to do with me going through a phase of being upset beyond language, and then resolving it somehow, getting to a stage where i’m content enough that I’ve not got anything to work through.
one of my best friends in the world says this whole thing is narcissistic. and I used to be inclined to agree with him, but now I realize it’s got more to do with what I need to vocalize without feeling like i’m burdening anyone.
I had an odd night last night, drinking with a strange mix of people. saw someone I hadn’t seen in ages who has a lot of power over me job-wise, and all he wanted to know was where the guy I was seeing when I left the whippet was. it actually felt pathetic telling him I didn’t know, that this guy had just disappeared and not called me back. I could feel him feel sorry for me. likewise with an old favourite regular who I used to just talk about the complexities of relationships with. I loathed saying it out loud and rendering myself that pathetic to these men that were older than me, that could probably see his point, see why he wouldn’t call back. it made me feel smaller and more worthless than seeing someone for a couple of months ought. it made me sound more pathetic than I needed to, because really I just took the rejection in my stride. vocalizing it made it matter more than it did, in the eyes of other people. maybe that’s why I haven’t been writing.
lately I have had a lot of people be horrified about the way I talk about my sex life. people seem inherently to try and feel sympathy for the fact I feel like I will be used and left, like there’s something wrong with me for vocalizing it and being okay with it. I don’t need sympathy, i’m living with it. there’s something almost like relief in knowing that I am too complicated to be really likeable. in knowing that there’s not much room in my life of going where I want, waking up in need of a sobering coffee and shower, not wanting company until I get to work and can control it. my best friend tells me what other people say about the way I live, and the picture is so small and badly rendered that I end up feeling sorry for them for not being able to see past their own prejudices about what I should be. i’m not a slut, and i’m certainly not a tragic figure who just needs a man to love her so she’ll be tamed and fulfilled. seeing other people’s effigies of me makes me want to burn everything.
having said that, this weekend I experienced something dangerously close to tenderness. dinner on Saturday turned into spending sunday together, sharing food, wearing his clothes, sitting on the floor with my head in his lap and letting him play with my hair while we criticized tv chefs like we knew what we were talking about. I stayed in his bed on Monday morning, smoked my last cigarette while his cat climbed all over my bare legs, left, listening to music full volume as I walked through the unfamiliar neighbourhoods, the houses smaller and denser than where I live. whenever I go to east London I can’t help but think how neat it is, can’t help but imagine men with compasses and rulers mapping it all out. there are still parts of my city that can surprise me, once I of my north London sprawl. this man has looked for me for a long time, incidentally. I kept changing numbers and locations, and he has found me through all of them. it will be interesting to see how long it is before the real picture disappoints him.
I feel powerful at the moment, but I don’t know how to talk about it. I don’t have the words, or the skillset, to tell you that I feel strong, that I finally feel like I have things in my grasp. it’s not something I’ve had to do so much in my life. but I need to do it now.
But now she could not bear the way she sounded. She was not a person anyone could love. She drew herself into herself, and when they let themselves into the cottage she could not even look at the table she had set with so many feverish thoughts. She told herself: it does not matter what bigots think of me.
But it did matter. She could not bear to be so hated.
To know you will be lonely is not the same as being lonely. When Lucinda came down the Parramatta river in Sol Myer’s boat, she imagined her life would be a lonely one, and she felt a strength through recognizing it. And yet what she imagined was not loneliness, which is boggy and sour, but something else which was bright and hard. The difference between what she imagined and what she finally experienced is the difference between the blade of a knife -an object of chilly beauty- and the chronic pain of an open wound.
'Yes, and I am generally most unsuitable. I am loud and opinionated. I am silent and stupid. I am an embarrassment in proper society. My mother's friends, those who wrote most passionately and invited me to come home, discovered, when they had me in their parlours, that their passion had been mistaken. They thanked the Lord - the ones not playing atheist- that they had not lost a daughter to the colonies. They would agree with you . I should not speak so bluntly to you. I should not address you like this, even if I do hurt on your behalf, on both our behalfs.'
She meant thia sincerely. She also did not mean it at all - there was nothing she liked better than to construct a fancy. She put great weight on fancies and was not in the habit of using the word in a dismissive way. The Crystal Palace, that building she admired more than any other, was nothing but a fancy of a kind, and there were ideas like this, the philosophical equivalent of great cathedrals of steel and glass, which were her passion, and these she held to her tightly, secretly.
She would obviously be wise to take his advice, to leash herself in. But she was everywhere leashed in, in any case. It was the condition of her adult life to feel it. She refused the conventions of whalebone and elastic, but still she was squeezed and blistered, pinched and hobbled.