Lately, I’ve been thinking about the ways people disappoint us. I’m not compiling some kind of asshole masterlist; I’m just considering it. Things have been odd, lately. Not hellfire bad, but certain things feel off. Certain people feel—or are—out of touch. Certain elements of life are strangely out of place. It’s like a puzzle you’ve completed a hundred times – but now you’re blindfolded and all the pieces are flipped over. It’s a lot harder to accomplish anything, to figure things out, when you can’t see.
Logical, right? Call me Captain Obvious! Or don’t. There’s only one captain, and his name is Mal. Oh, captain – my captain. *ahem* Moving on…
No one likes feeling as if they’re unimportant. As if they’re easy to be pushed to the side. No one likes being made to feel small. No one. Sometimes, on rare occasions, we allow people to trample all over us. The reasons are varied. We love someone. We are used to taking the blame. We make excuses. We think it’s a fluke. But it’s not. And we don’t put a foot down. We just accept it, because – hey, he/she doesn’t meant to do it.
But he/she doesn’t mean not to, either.
That’s the thing: if it’s a one-off instance, fine. Twice, okay. But if it’s habitual? Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go straight to motherfrakkin’ relationship JAIL.
I realize that I’m making a number of wretched generalizations. I realize that there are reasons people do things – reasons that often have nothing to do with us and everything to do with them. But the truth is that no one likes feeling like second place, or like a consolation prize. Or like something that someone will get to when they get to it. On a whim. Whenever they feel like it. Because, yeah, that says, hey, my time is more important than yours. That says, I don’t care enough. Not, notice, that they don’t care. But that they don’t care enough.
To me, it seems that there are two kinds of people: those who don’t care enough and those who care too much. There’s really no middle ground, emotionally speaking. There are tricky people, sure – the ones who don’t SEEM to care too much, but it’s all just a cover for the gaping maw of feelings that is their heart. There are people who talk a good talk, but then it’s just useless, wind-bound words.
I suppose this begs the question of which is worse: caring too much or not giving a damn? For me, I’d rather feel a shit-ton of pain, cry, scream, rage, and wail – than not. I’d rather care too much than have a cold heart. Or not try. I’d rather fling myself into a figurative volcano. I’d rather a mad, beautiful moron – than a person made of bricks. I’d rather give chances than be unable to trust.
I’d rather say yes, instead of no. I’d rather pick up the phone, instead of letting it ring. I’d rather ask, than not know. I’d rather do the ridiculous, insane thing – instead of doing nothing. It occurs to me, lately, that I don’t know how to do anything by halves. There is no halfway. I don’t do reserved.
But other people do. And it’s hard, I think, to judge people differently than we judge ourselves. There’s an unfortunate sadness that comes with that kind of realization. We understand things as we are. We see them as we are (somewhere, Nin is scoffing at my bastardization of her quote). That is human nature.
But, to quote from Into the Woods, “nice is different than good.” And sometimes, it’s not enough to not MEAN to do something. Or not mean to make someone feel bad. You have to actively pay attention to how someone else might feel. Intention matters, yes. But actions, darlings…actions are how we judge the feelings we cannot quantify.
“You left me all alone.”
Sometimes, that is the worst thing someone can do to another person: leave them along. Walk away. Turn his/her back. Disappear. We need people. And, at our core, we all want to be needed. Yet, we aren’t always rational creatures. We make poor decisions. We act out of hurt, out of fear.
Last night’s episode of Scandal (seven fifty-two) was a freakin’ tour-de-force of brilliance. Guillermo Diaz gave an amazingly nuanced, totally raw – entirely believable – performance as Huck. Huck’s backstory has been vague – with just enough details to keep us (the audience) engaged and interested. But last night’s episode was an old school origin story. Huck, who we knew was a killer, was an army guy. He was a man in love. He had a girl, who he later married. He had a kid.
And the guy who has been meeting with Jake? Well, that was Huck’s boss. Say it with me, now: WHAT THE HUCK? That was a nice twist. We learn that he’s a not nice guy at all. You see, in order to make a perfect killing machine – he has Huck locked in a hole, until he believes (or confesses to believing) that he doesn’t have a family. When he goes back to work – for the CIA – he hesitates. Charlie, good old basement cap himself, is supposed to kill him. But he’s a colleague of Huck’s. He shows mercy. Lies for him, tells him to disappear, and lets him go. Consider that for a second. He saved Huck’s life. So, it’s almost darkly amusing that Huck has no problem, on several occasions, torturing the hell out of Charlie when necessary.
Presumably, after Charlie lets Huck go, that’s when Olivia encounter Huck in the subway. Little does she know that the man with the sad eyes is simply waiting for a glimpse of the family he lost. We know that Huck stays away in order to protect them. This is all brought to the surface – the trauma he endured, only to shove down into his subconscious – being have been locked in a box (in the previous episode). He suffers a break, rocking back and forth, muttering seven fifty two, seven fifty two…over and over again. On Olivia’s advice, each of the Gladiators sits and talks to him. Each delivers one hell of a monologue, hoping to snap him out of his Rain Man-esque episode. They’re like a family. They may not know exactly what to do or say, but they do something. They step up.
Meanwhile, Liv and Fitz finally – FINALLY – have a conversation. It’s not an easy one. It’s one saturated in grief and hurt, confessions, admissions, passion, and pain. It’s honest, though, isn’t it? Both accuse and admit – and tell the truth. Liv is mad that Fitz had her watched, spitting, “That’s not love,” telling Fitz that he is not forgiven. She’s trying to wound him. Because he’s in pain. And Fitz takes it. He knows that he’s done wrong, but he doesn’t let her off the hook for her mistakes either (Defiance). They’ve both screwed up. They’re both done wrong. When shit goes bad, folks, it’s never just one person. It’s never just one thing.
Angry as all hell, Fitz spits, “You don’t fix me. You don’t handle me. THAT is not love. That’s control. I asked you to be a team. We should’ve been a team. It should’ve been you and me.” Pause for a second, ok? Fitz and Liv should’ve been a team. Not Fitz and Mellie. Not Fitz and Cyrus. Fitz and Liv. Liv and Fitz. Two people against the world. That’s what Fitz thought they were. And that’s what really bothered him about Defiance. Not that she did something illegal. It’s how it made him feel, and what it meant to him. He finally admits that it made him feel like she didn’t believe in him. She was trying to help him, but she didn’t think about what that help might ultimately DO to him.
Liv: You’re angry – then why are you here?
Fitz: I’m here because I love you.
Liv: And how does that change anything that has happened – what’s the point?
Fitz: Do you still love me? Do you…still love me?
Liv: Does it matter?
Fitz: It matters. Do you still love me? It’s a yes or no question.
Liv: I do. But I can’t do this anymore.
Liv is brokenhearted when she confesses that she still loves him. She can’t even LOOK at him, because she’s in such pain. She goes to leave (her response is always to flee), and what stops her? A one minute call – a thing that they both heed like a religion. “This past year, I have learned only one thing. That I cannot exist without you. That I cannot breathe without you. That the man I am, without you, is…I’m nothing. I’m nothing. And you are everything. And I need you to give me another chance. I demand another chance. We’re worth another chance.”
They kiss, and it’s an act with such raw emotion – with such pent up emotion: passion, love, pain, desire, despair – a cornucopia of feelings. Mid-makeout, she admits that he hurt her – and for her, that’s huge. She doesn’t let many people get close enough to hurt her. She loves. She fixes. She handles. But these are things that are always done with some measure of distance. Even though she tries, even though she ultimately runs out of the room (who hasn’t done THAT) – she knows how she feels. She knows how Fitz feels. You may leave the room, but you can never really leave someone you love like that – from the depths of your being. Liv needs time to collect herself, to reexamine the reimagined state of their relationship. Because, once again, everything changed. Fitz stayed by Olivia’s side until she was released from the hospital – because “that’s what you do when someone you love is in the hospital.” It’s true. (Great dialogue with Cyrus, whose face when he met Jake was priceless. Very suspicious Iago. I love it.)
And Mellie, bless her, knows it. “He hasn’t left her side,” she says to Hal, tears in her eyes. Notice the way she plays, almost absentminded, with her necklace as Hal talks to her. It’s a nervous tick. (One wonders if that necklace was a gift from Fitz, perhaps during happier times) She knows what that means that Fitz stayed at the hospital, especially because Fitz never made it to any of her dr’s appointments when she was pregnant with Teddy. And, once upon a time, she had Fitz by her side like that – she knows what it’s like when he rushes to be by the bedside. Once Fitz gets back to the White House, she tells him what’s going to happen. She’s moving across the street. She’s taking Teddy. And Fitz can either cave in and play his role, or she’s going to proclaim – to the world – that her husband is having an affair. Because nothing saves a marriage like a vicious ultimatum! Wait…
If you notice Fitz’s reaction, he doesn’t care that she’s leaving. He cares that she’s taking their son. She’s playing the only emotional card he might, possibly respond to: a guilt trip. But Fitz barely registers her outburst on his Richter scale of feelings. She doesn’t devastate him like Liv does. She doesn’t get to him like Liv. She doesn’t get under his skin like Liv. She walks out. And he doesn’t ask her to stay. He does nothing. He watches her go. That is pretty telling, no?
And then, we have Jake – who is overly emotionally attached to Liv, floating the idea that he might need to be reassigned past his (possibly very evil) boss. That went over like a lead balloon encased in concrete. Because, honey, once you’re in, you’re in. And they murder you when you fail to perform. Nothing says, “Thanks for serving you’re country!” like homicide.
In the end, Olivia gets back to OPA and talks to Huck. It turns out that seven fifty two was the time when he last saw his son. His son who didn’t know who he was, who just thought that he was a random homeless man in the subway station. Funny, sometimes, how a time can have such meaning. The time someone last called you. A date you first kissed someone. For Huck, his world exploded – because he had a son. And even that memory was taken away from him, ripped from his grasp. It is Olivia who saves him, who gets through to him. They save each other, as good friends do. No matter what, you step up. You get through. They have each other’s backs.
As a bookend the quote from the very beginning, Olivia tells Huck, “I had been all alone for a very long time. […] I need you.”
That, my dear hearts, makes all the difference in the world – romantic or not.
I have learned nothing
but love; and from love, madness.
This is dangerous.
This is brave.
I regret nothing.
You cannot plan for this.
There is no suitcase to pack,
no course to plot; there are
no roads and no reasons.
This is wilderness
the victory of healed wings.
Forget the arithmetic of sorrow.
Forget the grammar of grief.
Forget the science of fear.
Forget the history of pain.
Come now, be here.
I will teach you what I know.
Sometimes, we forget that it’s okay to want to be happy. This idea gets pushed aside by other things – responsibilities, obligations, and the general day-to-day grind. Happiness, or even the idea of it, takes a very dark backseat. There are always reasons, mind you. Bills. Other people. What other people want. It’s almost too easy to forget to reach toward happiness in favor of other, more practical-seeming things.
I have to do this job, because I need the money. I have to stay, because leaving is too hard. I have to stay, because of my responsibilities. I have to keep quiet, because fighting is hard; it leads to unpleasant things.
I know a lot of people who are stuck in jobs that they don’t like, simply because change is hard. I’m not talking about the economic aspect, but the emotional one. The one that requires a deep breath and a spine – and a leap to do something different. Even if it seems crazy, like running off to join the circus, work in a zoo, or open a barn. There are always reasons to do the safe, easy thing. To stay where you are, because the devil you know is supposedly better than the devil you don’t know. However, to quote Mae West, “Between two evils, I always pick the one I never triede before.”
A friend of mine, once, was trying to explain a decision of his. On the surface, it seemed like a noble thing – something you could label right and leave in a nice, tidy box. You can label it, accept it, and then put it in whatever corner you like. At the end of his explanation, he said something that stuck with me, “It’s not like I’m saying that my life is over.” His voice was sad. His eyes were even sadder. Because, in a way, that is exactly what he was saying. Giving up something for something else is (on paper) a sacrifice. But there are times where that’s just insane. If you’re setting even the idea of your own happiness aside for something, or even someone else, what really happens to you?
You start to become a ghost, darlings. You start to disappear. You get sad. And you get angry. And you get lost. You lose yourself. Resentment builds up, pooling in your lungs like a swallowed scream. Disappointment shackles your leaden feet. Your smiles begin to slip from genuine to false, one by one, little by little. You become frustrated. Your days begin to blur, each one just a number. You stop laughing.
I’m not saying that it’s possible for people to be happy all of the time. That kind of thing only exists in the movies, or when you’re on vacation, or if you’re taking the good drugs (kidding, kidding). But if you cannot even fathom the idea of happiness, like a visible brass ring, how are you living? How are you any good to anyone else? (Hint: you’re really not. Because you aren’t you.)
Somewhere, there has to be a line. A thing you won’t cross. Something you won’t give up, for the sake of not losing yourself. As much as we try to forget sometimes, it is okay to want to be happy. Actually, truly happy. It’s okay to want something besides misery or even a vague idea of contentment. It is okay to want to wake up in the morning and not feel like you’re being ground into dust. It’s okay to want to smile and have it reach your eyes. It’s okay to want more than you have.
That doesn’t make you selfish. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you weak – no even in the least. And it certainly doesn’t make you evil or awful, or any other derisive adjective. It makes you human. It makes you strong, because striving for better things is how we grow. It’s how we become the best version of ourselves. It’s in those moments where we are our most brave, where we say this – no. no more. Where we stop accepting things as they are and start striving toward what they could be.
Could be, my darling hearts, is such a beautiful thing. It is a phrase steeped in possibility and hope. It is a phrase that is alive and alight for the idea of maybe. It is an open door. It is the beginning of a moment where we start to save ourselves. It’s taken me a very long time to realize that, sometimes, we can’t save someone else. We can try. We can throw them an emotional life-preserver or rope. We can be there. (And, often, that makes all the difference in the world – someone being there, where in front of you or on the other end of the phone line.) But, ultimately, life is not a fairytale. There are no knights on white horses. There are, however, a large amount of dragons. There will swallow you whole for breakfast, with or without ketchup. Because either way, you are a tasty human. (Yes, figuratively speaking. There aren’t any real dragons, Khaleesi.)
Yet, sometimes, the people in our lives prey, quite easily, on our insecurities and fears. Sometimes, the idea of change is off-putting to others. It upsets the equilibrium, tips a balanced scale over, and unsettles anyone who is afraid of trying. Cowards try to hold you back. Cowards try to keep you chained and shackled, not because it benefits you. No. Simply, it makes their lives easier. It also validates the way their clutch their fears and hide in the dark. Anyone who wants what is best for you will encourage and support you, even when it seems crazy. Even when it might disrupt his/her life. Anyone who won’t cheer you on? Well, you need to reconsider that person’s place in your life. They’re like emotional quicksand, a vampire staring at its food supply. A pox. A plague. A…have I made my point? Good. Moving on…
Your happiness matters. It is okay to want to be happy. That’s not a tragedy or a crime. It is not a thing unworthy of pursuit. It is not a terrible thing to want, despite how you are sometimes made to feel. Yes, in life, most of the time, you have to save yourself. But you also need to realize, my dears, that you are worth saving.
Do what makes you happy. Be with people who make you happy. Leave behind what, and who, doesn’t lift you up. This is the only life you get. And you should spend it being happy. Light the candle on both ends, dear hearts. It gives a lovely light.
*This is a line from the new, and fucking fantastic, Florence + the Machine song — Over the Love.
Word was being a jerk. For some reason, cut and pasting screwed up the format. It wouldn’t let me indent. Even HTML gave me the finger. So, the poem is an image. Read the left column, and then the right. Apologies.
Sometimes, certain things are relevant beyond a certain point in time. This post, for me, is one of those things. It’s something that’s been rattling around in my brain, lately, and it felt like it needed repeating.
If there’s one thing I know it’s this: you never get anywhere by giving up. Fighting for something isn’t easy. If it were, it wouldn’t be a fight. And, perhaps, it wouldn’t be worth it. Because how often do we take the easy things for granted? How often do we assume that [xyz] will remain steady?
Fighting takes a certain amount of heart and will. You can’t fight if you don’t want to win. And it’s often easier to roll over, say you tried, and give up. Walk away. Go to sleep. Bury whatever it is that needs burying.
Except, the opposite of fighting is giving up. It’s quitting. It’s dredging up a thousand excuses that equal I can’t, when all you really need is ONE reason to keep going. To keep reaching. To keep fighting. To take control and face down whatever destiny’s in front of you.
I come from a long line of very stubborn women. If stubborn is a gene, I’ve probably got a ridiculously mutated version. I wouldn’t know how to exist without it, though. While my stubbornness can be a hindrance sometimes (when I get caught up in the wrong idea, thing, or even person), I like to think it’s my best asset, too.
This morning, I was thinking about how often we swear we’re doing something – or insist we are a certain way. We swear we’re living life to the fullest – or that we’re fighters. But are we, really? Are you?
Me, I’m a peace-loving, person-hugging, human CareBear – who is far more likely to want to give you cookies than a black eye. UNLESS you hurt someone I care about, then I’m actually pretty scary. But you can’t tell that by looking at me. The thing is, when I have to, I know how to fight. I know how to dig my heels in. In those moments, giving up and backing down isn’t an option. Honestly, I’m terrible at giving up – on things, on people. Maybe that’s a flaw, sometimes. I don’t really know.
I knew someone, once, who was a runner instead of a fighter. Things would seem as if they were going in a certain direction, until the direction of the wind changed or he got scared, or whatever. Then, his method of coping was to flee. (Basically, he was Brave Sir Robin from Monty Python. THAT would totally be his theme music.)
Strong as he seemed, as grown up as he might’ve been, he was a flight – not a fight – when it came down to it. Of course, he was also an emotions-bottler, a confrontation avoider, and he had a fairly moderate case of Lying Jerkface. (Seriously, I want to use other words, but [I’m pretending to be a lady]. Suffice to say that you should just insert the worst name you can think of. YES THAT.) [Addendum: this assessment really isn’t an entirely fair one, anymore; however, certain things are still relevant. So, I’m leaving it in.]
Even when it’s hard, I try to stand up for what I believe in, for the people I believe it. I hate, hate fighting. HATE IT. But I can do it, when I have to. Sometimes, it’s like walking into a hurricane wearing a tutu – impractical and pretty damn ridiculous. But life is full of battles. You have to choose which you engage in, but you DO have to choose. If you spend your whole life giving up, it’s not going to be much of a life. If you spent your whole life being safe, it’s not going to be very fulfilling, either.
We talk so much about being strong, about fighting for what we believe in, and about seizing the day. We talk too much. We pontificate about love, about desires, about [someday, I’ll do this] – when I have the time. Guys, time? It’s not something that comes in a box, delivered by UPS. It’s not something you boil on the stove. You can’t buy it at the Mart of Wal. You have to make it. You have to take it. And you should appreciate every damn minute – every mistake, every time you fall on your face. Because that means you’re trying. That means you’re fighting.
And that? It’s everything.
My confessions come easily enough. They are small at first, fledgling. I miss you. I missed you. You are important to me. These have no teeth, just a smile. They are honesty without expectation.
I need you. I want you. I love you. These are more dangerous. They are another layer gone. A moment stripped of armor, arms wide, hands shaking. With you, there are no walls. Nothing held back. No secrets. There is no need. It is as freeing as it is terrifying. I would not have it any other way.
Your confessions are different. At first, they are wordless, without tangible form, but just as dangerous as mine. A look. A sigh. A kiss. Hands tangled. Every movement stops time, breaks it straight down the center. A day passes. An hour. I don’t know. I don’t even care.
Then you murmur in my ear. I think I hear you say I love you. Your words are soft, low – careful – almost bashful, but never hesitant. I hold on to them. I hold on to everything. How could I not?
This is who we are. I would not trade us for the world.
So, how important am I?
*Sylvia Plath wrote that.