Idioms & Other Things
Updated: Jan 1
I like these, and a lot of my life lessons are rooted in some of the ones I have heard along the way. I tend to forget these a lot, but remembering the idiom, or finding a new relatable one, helps me root back to my experiences, and embrace the lessons that I have learned and need to remember when I lose my way.
"Love yourself, before you can love another"
"If you love something, let it go"
"Love should be an addition to your life, not a saviour"
I guess maybe these aren't strictly idioms? But they are to me, in the context that to me personally, they mean so much more, and are rooted in so much more than what the pretence possibly suggests. Let's start with the classic, "Love yourself, before you can love another". It's something I think a lot of people take very literally. I recently had a conversation with a coworker, with whom some of my depressive aspects share some similarity, about past relationship experiences. I was being a bit purposely vague about some of mine, whilst I allowed her, and listened to her, go into some level of detail about what appears to me, to be her most impressed relationship situation.
She expressed to me how she felt like this person had 'pulled her out of' her depression, and despite all the intricacies that led to the relationships ultimate demise, this seemed to me to be the tenant that kept her grounded to this relationship, and also, keeps her affixed to it in many ways after its demise. Many times when I offer advice, I am reflecting on my own experiences, and subsequently, unintentionally, also providing advice to myself...That I probably don't take, and neither does the listener, because who takes good advice, right, we always gravitate towards the unhealthy...McDonalds lives and breathes on that concept.
I told her that he didn't pull her from her depression, he subverted her ability to work on it. In the depths of despair, we beckon outside help, because when we lose our way, and we are distraught and broken, we don't know how to help ourselves. We desire, and almost expect, that someone, or something, should or needs to help us, because we shouldn't feel this bad.
In comes Mr. Big Dick/Ms. Moist Vagine, who tells you all the right things in the right way at the right time, that makes everything better. It feels like a shining light, and a hand held out at the right time. Irregardless of my insinuation of pure sexual intent (as sometimes there is genuine emotional intent), we put our problems onto this person. We don't actually overcome anything, we confuse lust, and love, and the compassion shown by another as some sort of safety blanket. Yet this avoids the simple truth. You haven't grown. You've ignored. You'd hid. You pushed your problems to one side, and allowed yourself to be swept up into the lustful whims of another, and the rush of serotonin and dopamine from sexual encounters or the promise of such made it seem like you were being healed. But when this relationship ends, suddenly, you're back at square one, because you didn't actually deal with any of your shit. You put it all onto this person and said 'here you go, take it away, and make it better.' So when they leave, or you walk away, whatever the circumstance, you feel they've left with everything that was keeping you together. Inevitably, this means everything rushes back. So when you lose that bond, the same issues return, but they feel worse, because you've had a break. Exactly the same as when you have a big lunch and have to go back to work you feel sluggish. Or you mentally checkout in the 2nd half of the last day of your work week because you know your days off/social plans are imminent. Perhaps even more literally, protecting ourselves against any airborne virus for 18 months, and then crying like a baby when you get the common cold. (Stop calling into work sick, pussy).
Loving yourself before you love another is not a literal term. To me, it expresses, deal with your shit, and be comfortable with your shit, before you allow someone else to share it. This is the key word "SHARE".
I am guilty of doing what my coworker did, several times over in fact. I put my issues in a box and metaphorically gave them to my partner and ignored it, assuming that in doing so, I fixed things. For Pandora's Box to open with uproarious fury upon the relationships demise.
I am constantly working on myself...There are times when I feel I've given up doing so, but I always feel like there are things I need to work on and explore, and maybe that's just part of the human experience, or maybe there's just so much wrong with me that I keep finding new problems in myself, or new reasons to hate myself.
The thing is, that in a relationship, your shit, is still yours. You can't expect someone to take that on for you, because they will have their own shit going on too, which they may or may not be expecting you to take on in the same way.
"Love yourself before you love another", it's about owning and accepting your shit. Accepting that your problems are your own, understanding and exploring where your trauma comes from, so that instead of giving it to someone, you are sharing it with someone. 'I am like this, because I have been through this', and it opens a discussion, for a real bond to be created. You share in your trauma without expectation of the other fixing it, and hopefully, if they're a right match, they won't seek or attempt to fix, but they will understand.
"If you love something, let it go" This is perhaps one of the most important set of words, that came to me at a very pivotal point in my life, and is the one that I must always remind myself of. When romantic/lustful experiences go sour, this becomes my mantra in trying to overcome it.
It comes across as giving up, but it's not, and this will feed into my 3rd idiom later when I explain the story behind it.
This particular story, was roughly 3 years into a 4 year relationship. A relationship, that on reflection, I often joke went on for 3 years too long. I had plans to live in a different country for a year with a group of friends, who one by one dropped out until I was the last one remaining, who had paid for everything, and had a month until departure. I had a decision to make. I could either cancel and stay in a job that was fuelling a blossoming existential crisis. Or, I could do something dramatic and uproot myself out of my comfort zone. I chose the latter...My subconscious fought me for the former, and I ended up rushing into a relationship 2 weeks before my flight out of dodge. It was hot and heavy to begin with, and we maintained long distance whilst I was away. She ended up coming out for a couple weeks, and I ultimately returned home after 4 months away. I had made the excuse to myself that I "couldn't find work", that "what's the point of coming here to just work simple retail or whatever, I've come here for change". Which is in part true...But was also a giant excuse! Our video calls were occasionally unspeakably tense as our differences began to slowly creep in, and there was equal measure of long distance tension, as well as perhaps not being quite compatible but ignoring/avoiding it. We muddled through, and it felt like the relationship rejuvenated when I came back.
But, I had completely lost myself, and my identity in doing so, and I didn't realise this until much later.
I didn't know what I was doing with my life, and so I latched onto this girl, and followed her life and revelled in the renewed relationship excitement.
As time went on, she helped me realise that I can't sit on my arse and play videogames all day, as much as I want to...I needed to get a job, but my anxieties and depression were growing and I felt that working full time straight away would be difficult. So I sought part time. She helped me find an internship at a music studio in London. Which was an amazing, wonderful, educational, and equally soul destroying experience. Having taught myself basic music production, and experimented with it at home in the years leading up to this, I had dreams of being a sound engineer working in a music studio. I got the job, and I was making steps! For a small percentage of the hourly rate for sessions I individually ran...£40 for working 16 hours was probably my best day.
Over the 6 months or so I did this, as much as I came to learn, from all the wonderful people I met there, clients and coworkers alike, for the most part, the clients were arseholes. Potentially it was just the circumstances of that particular studio, in that it was purposefully low cost, that it attracted a certain sect of clientele, who typically wanted the space and facilities, but shat on you as an engineer. Having a lot of insecurities, doing an educational internship, but being left in the directors chair unattended, whilst feeling great that you're trusted to do so, also preyed on my self doubt when I was being challenged about my abilities by clients who thought they knew better. I could see where they were coming from, because they have a vision for their creative piece. But you're paying for me to "engineer" it, so let me use the stuff, the way I want to use it. I was professional, and came across as confident, but I would often leave, doubting my abilities and my performance, and this played a big part into why I needed to leave the experience.
I decided that musicians were difficult to work with, and maybe at that time, I didn't have enough confidence in my ability to comfortably hold my ground and work the way I wanted to work.
In comes, customer service. I work on music at home in my free time, I start doing open mic nights, I teach myself more about music production, I record covers for youtube, and worked retail to afford the gear and equipment I wanted and needed.
Eventually an opportunity came to me, in the form of being a sound recordist on a short film. I'd never done it before, but having previously been on film sets, I knew I would love it, because I love being on set. I got a week off work, they provided all the gear, and I winged it, and worked out how to use all this pro level shit I'd never even heard of before.
It was arranged very quickly, and the director who I'd spoken to maybe once or twice on the phone prior and never met before, said I could stay with him.
This was roughly 3 years down the road of my relationship at the time, and things were rocky between us, but we hadn't really spoken about things in a way that addressed anything. I think there were spats, or maybe full blown arguments, I can't quite remember now, which clearly means nothing was productive when it happened.
She did encourage me to do this though, completely random, do something new, meet a stranger, spend a week in London. Fuck it.
Best week of my life.
I spoke to my then girlfriend on the phone after the first day of filming had wrapped, before going to bed, and we were just talking about our days. I don't remember what was said, but I remember something she said very vividly. "Ok, well I'm going to go, you've clearly had a shit day", to which I respond "Er, no, actually I've had an incredible day".
We didn't speak for the rest of the week.
I revelled and fully embraced the experience, and from it blossomed this beautiful friendship with the director. We would eat, drink, talk every evening, and I opened up in inebriation in a way I hadn't done before, but in a way that in of itself, taught me, I don't need to be as closed off as I went on to be for years.
As the week went on, I developed a crush on one of the crew members, but being in a relationship, I didn't act upon. But I did confide in my new friend about it, and how I felt that it was inappropriate and wrong to be feeling that way about someone else when in a relationship. I remember I'd had a bit to drink, and we were on the bus back to his apartment, and I had said that I was having doubts about my relationship. "Well..." He says "...If you love something, let it go"
And it took me so long, even after the relationship ended, for me to understand just what that meant to me.
The best thing this girlfriend ever did for me, was force me into therapy. I would often refer to her as oppressive when reflecting back on some of the events of the relationship. In time, I've realised that I was likely equally toxic for her in my own way, but too poorly educated on my own mentality to recognise that then. That said, there were plenty of occasions that when I think about it, were kinda fucked up. Like, how she systematically guided me into clean shaving. I'd let my facial hair grow, and she would ultimately say she didn't want to kiss me anymore...Each time, she'd say it when the facial hair was shorter and shorter, until eventually I felt I needed to clean shave everyday. To her, she would probably say 'well that's your choice, if you want to kiss me or not' , but in time I saw this as textbook manipulation.
It took me 2 years of therapy, because I didn't want to be there, to open up, and begin to be honest. Eventually, surmising to a point where I began to find my identity, and have more of a voice in my relationship. But the more I spoke up, and the more I tried to put my foot down, the more we fought.
I remember once, we got into an argument about band stuff, which at the time was so, so, important to me, because it gave me a deep sense of belonging that she never understood. I cancelled so many practices and gigs for her because it intruded upon "our time" together, and when I tried to challenge her on one of them..."Pick your battles" She says. I left it then. But as the months went on, I realised, no, this shit is important to me, to me, this matters, so I am picking my battle, and this is one I need to have. I cannot lay down and do what I am asked of, just because I love this person, or think I love this person. I shouldn't be sacrificing the things that I am discovering that matter to me, as and when I discover them.
This is why I say oppressive, because it felt like everything new I explored was like a new 'hobby' to her, rather than the profound self exploration that it actually was, and in typing this, I think I'm realising just how different we really were, and how large the gap in communication and understanding really was.
Boundaries, and compromise. This is what this experience, and what this idiom, taught me. Relationships do not survive without compromise, but they are sabotaged by sacrifice.
You need to know what your boundaries are, and work out with your partner what to compromise on, which will be different with each new partner. But there will be some core beliefs and interests that you hold, that must not be sacrificed. Escapism is important to me. I need films, TV and videogames to escape the mundanity of day to day life. Music is important to me, for catharsis and poetry, both in creation, performing, and listening. If you make me feel like I need to sacrifice something that grounds and roots my sense of identity, then, even if I love you, I will have to let you go.
Broader speaking on this point, it also refers to the whole dating dynamic, and meeting of new people. I have this horrible tendency to fixate on new prospective partners or crushes, and so it takes a lot of thoughtful energy to be normal around these situations, therefore, typically, I try to avoid them, because I don't feel they are worth the stress. But in the past, I have often wound myself up, immensely, about not getting attention from people I like, and then chasing them for ages, only for the inevitable conclusion, with a worse outcome because I've expended a lot of energy and subsequently emotion on it.
New romantic endeavours should be natural and if it's not working out, or they're not responding to you...Just fucking drop it, and move on. Love it, but Let. It. Go.
My final story in this post is one of moderate distress, a friend who is effectively being harassed by an ex partner. She had told me some months ago, that this ex was someone she'd had to get the police involved with, and a restraining order against. She hadn't gone into many explicit details, but had mentioned a lot of manipulative behaviour, and anger issues from him that ultimately served to give her a sense that he was trying to control who she saw, what she did, and when. Recently, having not seen her for a while, she told me she'd broken up with him again...I was a little stunned and surprised and exclaimed "wait, you got back with him??" She told me that she felt like it was easier to give him what he wanted, than to fight him to leave her alone.
I completely understand why she would think that, but I encouraged her decision to end it again, as she recognised the same behaviours starting again, and cut it off before she found herself in the same old situations. I tried to assure her decision, and that sometimes, as long and arduous as it may be, 'to keep you and your children safe, it may be best to follow the process'.
I caught up with her the other day, and she was speaking with conviction about her decision. Equal amounts concern as she doesn't feel he is mentally well, and she said she "doesn't want to send him to prison". At which point, I am of the belief of, if someones actions are deemed to be of such punishment, that is on them, and that she should be thinking of herself, and her children's needs in this situation.
We spoke about being single as an adult, and how the idea of dating seems like such effort, to which I said I probably won't bother. I feel like a lot of what she said next was self affirmation, and after she had said her piece, I told her to remember what she had said to me if she ever feels conflicted about her decisions to go down the path she's about to head down.
She'd said, and I agree, that there seems to be so much pressure not just sociologically, but governmentally, and financially, to be in a committed relationship. That it's so difficult to afford to live as a single person, that being in a relationship makes those costs easier, irrelevant of emotional attachments.
This is where she said, what I had never heard before, and it connects through the previous 2 stories, between my coworker, and my ex, "love should be an addition to your life, not a saviour" She was more speaking in terms of the person she is dealing with, in that he had expressed she was his everything. She said her kids come first, she doesn't want to be "someones world", and she hates that people say and post on social media "you are my everything", and went on to say her kids were her everything. She doesn't want to be, and cannot be, a crutch for someone, and it hit me deep.
It was a different spin on the advice I had given my coworker, and a crutch is what I expected my ex to be for me when I was going through shit. I've grown up, and grown through my depression, with this strange belief that I need a loving, committed, romantic relationship to be happy. Well, I've had that, and it clearly didn't fix what's broken. I say it like it's easy, but these are things I will probably always be working on; If you accept yourself, and you know your boundaries, and you are working on yourself, for yourself, then, you can add to that the love of another, and maybe then, you'll be in a position to feel worthy of it.