by P. Braithwaite
The first month after my breakup with The Besticle was really hard. In addition to dealing with the fact that my relationship had imploded yet again, I was trying to own my commitment to myself as a blogger.
A relationship blogger.
You know, a person who blogs about relationships.
A person who blogs about her love life but can’t keep her sh*t together.
It was really hard for me to deal with myself around that time.
I struggled. I really struggled. I really really struggled with my ability to write honest blogs — to be an honest person. The logic went something like this: if I blog honestly about relationships, then I have to admit all of my feelings of shame and failure. If I don’t feel shame, heartache, and failure, then I can write about relationships while still being ‘honest’.
I opted for the latter. I convinced myself that I’d taken things in stride. I hadn’t. I stuffed all of the emotions into someplace I couldn’t see them. I pretended they didn’t exist. They did. Sadness took its toll. I lost over 15 pounds. I painted my nails. Every morning I woke up anxious. I stopped meditating and journaling.
I couldn’t face myself.
And so God/Universe (that tricky lover of mine) found creative ways to bring me back to myself. Over the span of one week IFC played “V is for Vendetta” over 15 times. Every time I turned on my TV, that movie was on and always at the same spot. Evey, Natalie Portman’s character, is in prison. She is being tortured, but still refuses give up V’s whereabouts. One night, after being thrown into her cell, she finds a handwritten note in a hole inside the wall. It’s written by a woman named Valerie, a woman who’d been a prisoner before her.
Here are the words from Valarie’s note:
My name is Valerie, I don’t think I’ll live much longer and I wanted to tell someone about my life. This is the only autobiography I’ll ever write, and God, I’m writing it on toilet paper.
I was born in Nottingham in 1985, I don’t remember much of those early years, but I do remember the rain. My grandmother owned a farm in Tuttlebrook, and she use to tell me that God was in the rain. I passed my 11th lesson into girl’s grammar; it was at school that I met my first girlfriend, her name was Sara. It was her wrists. They were beautiful. I thought we would love each other forever. I remember our teacher telling us that is was an adolescent phase people outgrew.
Sara did, I didn’t.
In 2002 I fell in love with a girl named Christina. That year I came out to my parents. I couldn’t have done it without Chris holding my hand. My father wouldn’t look at me, he told me to go and never come back. My mother said nothing. But I had only told them the truth, was that so selfish? Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us, but within that inch, we are free.
I’d always known what I wanted to do with my life, and in 2015 I starred in my first film, “The Salt Flats”. It was the most important role of my life, not because of my career, but because that was how I met Ruth. The first time we kissed, I knew I never wanted to kiss any other lips but hers again. We moved to a small flat in London together. She grew Scarlet Carsons for me in our window box, and our place always smelled of roses. Those were there best years of my life. But America’s war grew worse, and worse. And eventually came to London.
After that there were no roses anymore. Not for anyone.
I remember how the meaning of words began to change. How unfamiliar words like collateral and rendition became frightening…I still don’t understand it, why they hate us so much. They took Ruth while she was out buying food. I’ve never cried so hard in my life. It wasn’t long till they came for me.
It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years, I had roses, and apologized to no one. I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish. Every inch, but one. An Inch, it is small and it is fragile, but it is the only thing the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must never let them take it from us. I hope that whoever you are, you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you. I love you. With all my heart, I love you. -Valerie”
I didn’t get it at the time. Not really. And almost every day for a week, when I sat down in front of my TV, I’d inevitably find myself staring at this same scene (I’ve actually never seen the entire movie). What are you trying to tell me, I’d ask. Eventually, I got irritated and stopped watching broadcast TV (yaay Netflix), but now I understand. Our truths, our small stories of mediocrity and shame, give other’s strength. When I feel openly, I give others the space to feel openly. If I expand my own prison, we collectively expand. God is in the rain. God is in the sadness, God is in the shadows and prison cells and catastrophes and sadness. God is everywhere we think we must avoid. God is in the ink, and on social media too.
The entire Universe lives inside our stories of love and loss. And our stories, though simple and not as interesting as we think, our stories can set one another free.
We’ve all been here before — in the prisons of our own minds, of our own hearts, of our own narrative . We’ve all been Evey, trapped by our own fear, and we’ve all been Valarie, hastily documenting our truths to find connection and/or freedom. On any given day, I’m both women. On any given day, they’re the same.
But here, HERE, is the truth of what I know for sure: writing, when done honestly, is an act of love. Writing and sharing is how I love.
And so this blog is a love letter, to those of you I know and those of you I don’t (and to those of you I know but have never actually met). I take Valerie’s words into my own heart and give them back to you: “I hope that whoever you are, you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you. I love you. With all my heart, I love you…”
And so it is.
Sending you some silent love from day 8 of my retreat. I’ll see ya’ll when I get back. 🙂