My Tell-Tale Heart

Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

So many emotions running through my veins, tangling themselves up and forming themselves into words so desperate to launch themselves out into the world with the hope of landing somewhere in a place of understanding. I didn’t know where to aim, so I  turned here.

For the first time in my life, I feel I’ve been filled with a spirit of standing up for myself, for my own being, my own feelings, my own heart and my own worth, and it seems I should preface this with the fact that I shouldn’t have to – everybody is made up of a thousand different thoughts and experiences that lead them down different paths and shape their ideas and viewpoints and lives and very beings… nobody should have to feel they have to defend themselves. But the past has taught me that the Internet, heck, the world, is filled with those who see one veering off the path of formulaic shoulds and seek to judge or offer advice before first venturing in to understand. I know true friends, genuine, caring souls will do that, and I thank everyone for their concern in recent days and, I’m sure, in those yet to come… but I just have to give my heart the floor for a moment; thrust its worn and battered soul back into centre stage and hope for the best.

I always maintained I never wanted to die without any scars. The idea of “living backward” is something I’ve latched onto in recent years; grasping every day and opportunity by the throat and living the fuck out of it, seeing every second as a gift and living with the mentality that if you live life to pieces, there’s no possibility in the world that you’ll get to the end of it and have regret. I don’t want to die without any scars. And my heart is covered in them, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Because with every one of them has come incredible experience, lessons, growth, memories… the choice to keep going is not an easy one, and I’m sure any sane person would lock it away behind a fortress where it could be protected from the dark depths that sadly must exist if the highest of highs are ever to be experienced… it would be easy to hide away from life, to take time, to barricade myself from the world if just to stay safe. But this goes against my very way of living. Our days are finite. We are filled with an endless capacity to feel… and just because the world’s timeline says our actions and paths must be those that are pre-carved to be societally acceptable doesn’t mean it aligns with mine.

Every time we listen to what someone else says we should be doing, we fall away from what our heart tells us we need to be. Yet we go along with it, because it’s normal. It’s traditional. It’s “the rules”. We grow up, and go to university, and get a degree because that will get us a job. We meet someone, stick it out even though it’s not perfect, and settle in relationships that aren’t so bad and can sometimes be pretty good, and we tune out the gut instinct that tells you there might be more. We get mortgages and houses and have children and work jobs that pay the bills and it’s all so very safe. But why are we given these instincts, these wishes, these strong desires and hopes and dreams if we’re not allowed to follow them? I think we are allowed. I think it’s just scary because it’s so much easier to play it safe and follow the path, and it’s so much scarier to be judged for veering into the forest. It’s so much scarier not having a safety net. But if we weren’t meant to have these feelings of curiosity and hope and passion for something more, why are we equipped with the capacity to have them?

I want to clarify what’s happened over the course of the past week… and the past little while. The past few months… the past two years… the past five… I want to be understood. Again, I am hit with this sentiment, but I also – and I guess this is my super INFJ-ness coming out – am hard wired with a desperate need to be understood.

If other people do not understand our behavior—so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being “asocial” or “irrational” in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them. How many lives have been ruined by this need to “explain,” which usually implies that the explanation be “understood,” i.e. approved. Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds, your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself—to his reason and his conscience—and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.

I was told recently that attachment to safe, neutral, acceptable terms can neither steal nor produce anything of true value… or it can produce an urgency, to live, to feel, to create, to love, to dream… to create a life so full of experience that the heart is so well travelled that when it finally reaches its destination it recognises where it’s meant to be.  Why should we be conditioned to live the life the rest of the world tells us we should? Why should our own timeline be bent and shaped according to what’s traditional just because it’s what everybody else does? Anything could happen tomorrow. I don’t know if I’m going to be on this planet for another day or another ten years or another ninety, but I don’t want to waste a second of it. I have no patience for waiting in corners and turning away opportunities when I know, I know that the path I was on was the wrong one. Let me regain my footing on another that may lead to exactly where I’m meant to be. And if not, let me make my mistakes. This life is mine, and these choices are mine. This heart is mine and this sense of never giving up may be frowned on or judged, but let me do it my wayIt is my right.

I sobbed for a good two hours straight last night at the realisation that with my decisions comes judgment from so many who see things from afar without bothering to take the time to first come in, see what my past has held, whether near or far, and where it has led me. I was the one that was left. Repeatedly. I gave all, and for the longest time, I held onto something that hadn’t been right for a very long time. I think we all have a tendency to do that… to accept what we have, to ignore the feelings of feeling misunderstood and the imaginings of something more. To accept that no two people are perfect and to just make the most of it. I did that. I did that every time I was left and convinced myself that with enough work, things could be perfect. But when the decision was made, for the final time, for the first time I felt equipped with enough self confidence, enough passions and enough truly incredible people in my life that I didn’t have to settle for forever feeling inadequate. So this time, I accepted it. It so happened that in recent months that what could be was illuminated… I did nothing wrong. I came to a realisation that I was worth more than forever being left, forever struggling and fighting for understanding… and I realise that on the surface, it may look like “jumping”, from one thing to another, but we’d been strangers for a long time. Different homes, different friends, and a building of walls I tried so hard to break. It is no-ones decision to judge but mine, but I’m so incredibly saddened that the world jumps to easy conclusions before first hearing, knowing, understanding the path that led to where I am. 

I hold no resentment or malice. The past two years have filled me with incredible memories, gratitude, learning experiences and a growth that’s fuelled me forward to a place where I finally feel at peace with who I am… I feel for the first time it’s okay to be the way I am, emotionality and all. Yes, I’m throwing my heart open again, but I genuinely feel for the first time… it’s understood. It’s recognised. It’s battered and bruised, but it’s filled with an eternal hope. All its past flaws are somehow now seen as strength and beauty and I’m embarking upon something with someone whose heart truly speaks the same language. I’m genuinely happy, and I feel like I… deserve to be. This is my path. Please let me walk it. If for no other reason than tomorrow, it’s my fucking birthday.

Don’t judge a book by… oh, bugger it, go ahead!

Some of you might remember when I got back from the Dominican, I mentioned a couple of interesting characters that popped up alarmingly frequently during the trip.  We first met Louie and Peter on the bus from the airport to the resort.  They sat separately, but both wore Large Gentleman On Vacation Hawaiian shirts and hats.  We sat behind Louie, who kept looking back and making obnoxious comments and asking far too often “where the rum was”.  It was dark, and we couldn’t tell if he was addressing us, or someone at the back, so we found ourselves with tightly-grasped hands, smiling and nodding through gritted teeth.   Whoever this bozo was, hopefully he was being dropped off at the next resort.

The first morning there, we attended our “briefing” meeting with the rep, who told us all sorts of helpful things about booking tours through her (which we ignored), where to go, and when to check the binder on our last day to see when our bus was coming.  It was about 10:00, and we sat, with another couple behind us… and a couple of loud oafs in front.  When we heard the Chris Griffin-esque whiny voice complaining and asking what time the bar opened, we looked at each other in panic.  Louie was here to stay, and he disappeared for a few minutes, returning with two drinks firmly in hands, making the meeting start a full half hour late.

Sweet and I had quite the game of “Name That Oaf” on the first day, making observations about where they could possibly work, if they were together, why were two mid-fifties gentlemen out on their own in the middle of the Caribbean pretending not to be together anyway, and what their names might be.  We decided on “Roy and Norm”, before we were introduced, the second night in, when we found ourselves seated at the table elbow-widths away at dinner.  I’d gone to the loo, and Sweet and I spent the first half of dinner making faces and grinning at each other as we listened to obnoxious inanity – and I returned to a grinning Sweet, who introduced me on first-name basis, which not only put my poker face to the test, but made it lock itself in a room and replace all meals, sleep and social activity with a pile of Cole’s notes.  It was too funny to be happening.

Days in, they kept popping up here and there, maybe the funniest of which was when I was popping upstairs for some sunscreen, and I saw two older blokes racing toward the resort on scooters, slowing right down to go over the sleeping policemen – bump, bump – and whizzing off up to the hotel.

On our last day, we were all packed and had, as per the rep’s instructions, checked the binder to see when we were being picked up.  7:15 pm, it said, so we packed up in the morning, relaxed by the pool, had some lunch, showered and were getting ready for dinner at about 5 when we had a phone call.  “It’s 5:00 and you’re still in the room!” a curt female voice informed me.  “You know you’re going to have to pay a $50 late checkout fee.” Click. Sweet and I didn’t know about checkout times – he’s never travelled, and my last few trips have involved staying at company villas, Hollywood sailboats, and relatives’ homes in the UK.  We went down, and she insisted the rep had told us in our meeting, which she hadn’t.  She got her on the phone, and she talked to the manager, insisting she had, and the phone was just about to be passed to me when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, our two resident oafs by the pool, talking to a lady half their age.  I ran over, and told Louie the situation.  “Of course she didn’t tell us! We had to go and ask two days ago!” Proof! Glorious, unexpected proof from our resident entertainment.  When we next spoke, we had a note put in The Book.  Louie walked past us and whispered “raise hell”. We didn’t have to pay.

We later went back to the poolside to thank him for saving the day, when he left us with his words of wisdom: “The squeaky wheel always gets the oil, folks!” We looked at each other, baffled for a second, while he went to get another drink.  Did he just tell us that the more of a pain in the ass you are, the more likely you’ll get what you want?  We couldn’t help but laugh – this was clearly his motto in life, and despite the exterior loutish behaviour, he’d done pretty well for himself.  We smiled, and asked him where he was headed home. “Toronto,” he told us.  “But there’s been a lot of snow this week, and we have a lot of Asian and BROWN people who don’t know how to drive in the snow; they’re going to make the roads hell.”  And off he went, leaving our jaws planted and rooting firmly on the floor.  The moral of the story? Even if you do judge a book by its cover, it can still enclose a pleasant surprise.  But it’ll probably end up being a jerk anyway!

It’s times like these when I desperately want to learn and explore more about the world of physiognomy – something I learned about in literature years ago, the study of what people’s physical face structure and external appearance says about them as a person. To judge a book by its cover based on exterior observation – or to dig deeper? Even after dear Louie, I still like to explore and be surprised.  Seeing Susan Boyle first open her mouth and sing so beautifully, putting all pre-judgers firmly in their place, was enough to move me to tears.  And I love when people are surprised when they first get to know me that I have tattoos, love all things sci-fi and nerdy, and listen to Scandinavian power metal as a guilty pleasure.  People can often surprise you in wonderful and interesting ways –  but I find, just as often, end up being exactly how you imagined.  What are your thoughts on first impressions?