For years now I have shared my bed with a beast, although he used to be a prince and still was one when I met him and when we married. “How did it come to this?” I ask myself, querying the question. “And why won’t I leave?” To which there is no reply. These are but a handful of questions pulled from a list of intimidating length.
They say that love is strange and life is complex, that there is no understanding either one of them, no dissecting the element to make sense of the parts. And I am inclined (albeit reluctantly) to agree; after all, who am I to argue with those who are in charge the universe, the people who research and study to lay down and prove? Besides, given my current predicament, I would have to say that they are right. But it’s not all bad, not always…
The man behind the mask is still present inside and on good days he even comes out.
The boy next door still lives on my road and when I visit, I can sit quietly in my car and watch him come out.
In fact, if I am truthful – and I suppose I should be because this tale is more truth than fiction and honesty is the main point: I suppose he is around for half of my waking life. But the nature of that percentage is fragmented and split up and cannot be relied upon to present itself. One can be walking, working, socialising, shopping, etc…. and suddenly he –the beast, the demon – arrives, descending like a cloud to swallow everything else up. Then, the hand that I was holding is replaced by a paw, the eyes I was swimming in turn to ice, the voice that was whispering growls complaints and I am trodden on and trampled until I submit. It’s all rather pitiful and I am ashamed to say it out loud. But sometimes speaking difficult things is the bravest thing we can do and sharing can help others to avoid similar mistakes and, who knows: medicine can come from anywhere and take many forms; mine may arrive as a result of this.
Anyhow, this is a cautionary tale and I implore you proceed with care: you never know when something inadvertently encountered is going to rise to trip you up. I’ve cried over poems and wept over books, made decisions based upon films. I’ve travelled far, experimented widely and challenged myself in ways I never imagined I would. I’ve admired, praised, loved; rejected, run towards and fled from. I’ve hidden, stolen, joked; lied, laughed and wept, etc… all inspired by creativity, in one form or another. It’s a powerful element and can do strange things – healing and hurting, helping and hindering, in equal measure.
A fairytale in reverse, this is the story of a Cinderella deprived of a ceremony, a Rapunzel raped of her virginity, a Sleeping Beauty hooked on Prozac and a Snow White sold into slavery. It’s a child abandoned, a sister denied, a lover subjected to violence and a mother deprived. All very tragic.
So how did it start and where are we now and why do we allow it to go on? And what went wrong and why did it happen and who’s really to blame? And do these things matter to anyone but me, when the result is just the same: unhappy, heartbroken, sick? I’m asking you to provide the answer because you are the only ones who can.
We all have our own story, each one containing multiple chapters. Some of us live a new one each day, our pages turning rapidly, our words snappy and fast-paced. Others are slower to reveal themselves and are longer in length, appearing more like entire narratives, a book in themselves. At different times in our lives, their durations will vary. And, depending on what we are experiencing, so will their themes. Some will be romantic in nature, others more comedic, presenting as silly, carefree, frivolous and light. Others still will be tragic and sad, pensive and deep. We will reflect upon the passing of the years, the coming and going of people, who we are, who we were and who we have become. Despite being hard: it is never boring, for we never know what to expect.
For some of us, the element of surprise is alarming and we suffer greatly as a result. For others, not knowing is liberating, allowing space in which to experiment and expand. Ideally, we fall somewhere in the centre, permitting what will be to be without attempting to block it or stand in its way.
Love is equally as unpredictable and unreliable in nature. It comes and goes. It mutates. The quality rises and falls, often depending on external circumstances we lack the ability to control or predict. If we choose to indulge in this most human of experiences, seeking that perfect other half to complete our own gaping whole, then we risk falling and breaking. And if we decide to stick it out, believing still in spite of evidence that might suggest the opposite that things will improve, then we accept that the journey will be difficult. All this I have learned from experience. It is the hard way. But if we truly desire our happy ending, it may be the only one.
by Rebecca L. Atherton
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