Monday, April 6, 2015

Pride and Prejudice... and so begins the list of favourite things.

"Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austen is one of my favourite novels. It's full of passion, love, intrigue and misunderstandings.

Most of the time, I think that movies which are based upon loved literary works should be counted wholly as their own; separate from the beloved writings that perhaps inspired them. This is because often times, the films' plot is so very loosely based on the book that it's difficult to see the true connection anyway.

I will say this: of all the film adaptations of this book by Austen, Colin Firth shall forever remain the embodiment of Mr. Darcy in my mind. He is one of my absolutely favourite actors.

His presence is so strong, and his nuances so clever, layered and delicate. He is above all else, the most honest actor I've seen. I fall in love with every performance I see him in, and I could watch him forever because he shows his vulnerability so well in his roles. That is what makes a good actor; to make the scene all about the other person, and in doing so, to reveal the heart of your role.

( I hope some day I can meet Mr. Colin Firth. I'd love to shake his hand, look him straight in those dark and dazzling eyes of his, and say, "Goddamn you're brilliant." Then I'd smile and buy him a book and a pint, and send him home with homemade cookies for his incredible family.)

What I didn't know when I first read "Pride and Prejudice," was how amazingly relevant its representation of misunderstandings and miscommunications in love would be to my life.

Upon my first reading of it when I was 13 years old, I fell in love with the language and the fact that despite the ridiculous societal circumstances, the spread of class, wealth, reputation and limitations of communication between the sexes, the couples actually managed to figure things out and get together.

My thirteen year old brain felt the anxiety of Mr. Darcy and Ms. Bennet in the novel; the thin line between love and hate spread so because of lies, deception and the fact that no one would speak plainly in the moment!

When the two have weathered more than one painfully awkward situation, he finally professes to her that,
     ``In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.''

I remember my heart beating quickly at that moment, and I also recall childishly hoping secretly in the back of my mind, that the fellow I had a crush on would someday soon, profess as such to me.

If I am honest with myself, I cannot think of a single instance or relationship from my first true love (at 16) up to my last (and best) with my now husband, that didn't involve the anxiety, agony and relief that souls endure before one knows if one's feelings are returned.

I would also be hard-pressed to not count the one or many little miscommunications within each relationship that felt as torturous as waiting to know if you've been left for something better.

It took me years to learn how to put myself first in a relationship; I was forever trying to spare the other person's feelings, at any or greatest cost to my own. I was a martyr for love.

I was determined not to tell the truth about my hurt or pain; it was something I had to deal with on my own, it wouldn't do to dump it onto the other person -- never mind that it was what I truly wanted, or how I really felt. That didn't matter and it likely wouldn't change anything anyway.
How WRONG I was to believe that!

Thinking back on my experiences, I wonder at how ridiculous I was to think I was sparing the fellow's feelings, when in fact, not communicating either forced them to think that I didn't care, or gave them leave to do what they wanted with my blessing (when really, I was NOT okay with it).

I was not exactly dishonest, but I was secretly unforthcoming.

It's impossible to have a successful relationship if your partner has to pull teeth to get you to show your vulnerability. Being in love is to BE VULNERABLE!

This is something that I was not comfortable with; though I am a positive person in most respects of my life, in romantic relationships, I had an extremely logical, no-nonsense point of view, that greatly conflicted with my wildly beating and sleeve inhabiting heart.

Throughout my relationships and into my twenties, I suffered much heartbreak and hopelessness, because you see, part of me didn't believe I was lovable.

What makes this so silly, is that I know that I am a warm, thoughtful and compassionate individual. I know deep down, that I have much to offer, and that I try to be generous of spirit and heart.
The truth was though, I had a case of low self esteem of the soul.

I desperately wanted to believe compliments when I was given them, but I really thought that I didn't deserve them, so they must be lies. I remembered every criticism, whether just and constructive, or invalid and harsh. I had the ridiculous idea that I was being humble, when really I was just self-flaggelating.

I measured myself against the impossibility of perfection; if only I had done everything right, been as good as I know I can be, then my partner's love wouldn't have faltered. If I had loved the person enough, then why didn't it work? The hyper responsibility I was enacting was absolutely and irrevocably the thing that made me miserable with myself.

I deem it to be true that love NEVER falters. In reality, once you love someone, you never truly stop loving them --- oh circumstances may change, you become friends and love them all the more that way, or in extreme cases the love can coincide with other feelings, even hate, but you never really stop you see, because love never ends.

The mistakes I made with my previous romantic involvements were basically this: You, as a person, can never, ever hold responsibility for the feelings or actions of others. The absolute only thing you can control are your actions and NOT your feelings. 

A person feels what they feel, end of story. 
Simpering, and denying, or pretending not to feel, or being dramatically and condescendingly shouted to that "one shouldn't feel that way," is utter bullshit.

Be frank with the people you love. Don't withhold smiles or affections or punish them because you think it makes the times you are demonstrably loving more special. I've never done this, but I've experienced it on the receiving end first hand, and it's absolutely horrid and confusing. Don't be a prat: be honest. If your partner enjoys your smile, then smile when you feel it and make them happy!

Always fight for what you want, and I don't mean violence -- I mean SHOW UP. Hopefully you never date someone who believes in the idea of horrid little "tests," to make sure you care. Hopefully you're with someone who's honest and doesn't practice the bullshit of little dating or relationship games. If you feel it, do it! Shout "I love you," and run after them, but don't wallow in your own pain that "well, they don't want me," who cares, at least if you show up, you'll find out for real instead of muttering on 'what ifs,' in your head for years to come because you didn't try.

When my husband and I were first dating and had been together around 9 months, we had a simple miscommunication.
He was worried that I didn't want the same things as he did; that I had some sort of agenda and timeframe for us. As a result of his anxiety, I felt him withdraw emotionally. Instead of asking me plainly about my plans or designs for our relationship, he became distant -- I felt the change, and as I began to ask him about it, my pride was injured. It seemed as though he'd already decided that we shouldn't be together because we didn't have the same ultimate goals, even though we hadn't discussed the details.

 I then decided then to end it, before he could.

He left that morning, saying he'd call me on my birthday. I told him not to bother. I was cold and short with him. Inside, I was deeply hurt. I thought, well, it's over. He's decided and it's done-- not realizing that I was the one who broke things off to save him the trouble. I was the one who wouldn't let him talk further and elaborate on his fears so that they could be alleviated!

The rest of that day I tried to be "okay," with things, but I knew that I was heartbroken... again. 

Yet again, I'd messed up another perfectly fine relationship. I spent time with my girlfriends, but I simply couldn't be cheered. I had no appetite at all. I couldn't sleep. The old familiar hole in my heart that had torn and bruised each time it was broken with the ending of a relationship was a gaping blackness. 

Then, it hit me.

I am NOT going to go through this again. This is ridiculous. I didn't even tell him that what he thought I was thinking was entirely untrue! I was hurt by his jumping to a conclusion that he hadn't even leapt to yet! He was just worried about it-- he hadn't wanted to end things necessarily  -- he wasn't looking for an easy out, he was trying to COMMUNICATE with me and I didn't allow it! My PRIDE was in the way. I threw him out so I didn't have to let him in.

Having decided that I would NOT again be passive in the end of a relationship, I called him and asked him if I could see him the next day so that we could talk. He said yes, that would be fine.

I then sat down and wrote a three page letter about what I was feeling, what I had thought, how things had been misconstrued, that I didn't have any "designs," or "silly, stupid, female plots," and that I was being honest from the start about what I wanted eventually, with no timeline whatsoever. Things would work out, or not, but I'd be damned if they were going to end because of a stunningly dumb miscommunication. Because of no good reason at all!

In short, I showed up. 

I was VULNERABLE! When I waited for him to show up on his bicycle so we could talk, I didn't even care if we were getting back together or not, I just desired him to know how I felt. This time I was going to be true to myself. I was going to have my say, not quietly accept my circumstances and give up my power and my right to express my feelings because they weren't worth sharing.

It was the most freeing thing I've ever done. Finally I had stopped being responsible for other people's happiness, I had let it be okay for someone to take my feelings into account before making their decision instead of pretending that my feelings didn't matter and wouldn't affect the outcome.

He read my letter. He admitted that his fears, while not wholly unfounded, were slightly silly and entirely unnecessary because I don't play games. We talked for an hour and then we laughed and called each other on everything we could think of to clear the air and make sure we were on the same page.

He promised that he would simply talk to me, ask me, the next time he felt anxious. I promised to show up and answer and to do likewise for him.

Approximately a year later we were engaged, and a year after that (three years dating total) we got married.

I love my partner more than anything; our relationship has been one of the most delightful, honest, open and vulnerable things I've ever been through. I'll never stop showing up, baring my soul and telling my truth, because painful as it is at times, it's been the best thing I could have hoped for.

It's made our incredibly lovely life possible, and I wouldn't have things any other way.