It was when we stood in front of the red wall in Fitzwilliam Museum that my friend looked at me and asked me not to judge her and told me she needs to talk to me. I could feel she was struggling to cope with something but I had never asked in the past, not because I would not care, but because people need time to realize what’s been hurting them and they need strength to speak about it out loud. “I’ve been seeing this man for some months now, I think I am in love with him or so it feels like, but it is wrong. He is not…well he is married to someone else.” I wondered who defines what is right or wrong but remained silent and leaned my head to the left smiling at her. “I’m here for you. Don’t worry I am trying not to judge people’s choices let alone their feelings. How long has this been going on? I am so sorry I had no idea”. I listened to K. and her story, her mysterious man, how they met, her guilt, her parents and their divorce and how she thought all those were correlated in some uncanny way. So many similarities, even more coincidences. Are we playing roles? Is there a common scenario for each case that is altered only according to our acting abilities to execute it? Life is ironically funny. I have been unfaithful in the past and I have been someone else’s unfaithful story as well, however what I am teaching myself now is how to be faithful to myself.
“Let me tell you a story, we don’t know each other that well, but I am fine talking about it cause it is in the past. No glory nor passion about it. I struggled to death to let it go, to rationalize it, to remove my perception of reality from facts, but we make our own choices and we need to give ourselves time to come into terms with what we thought it was the best we could do in that particular moment.” We walked to the pub and sat outside, I got us two glasses of Malbec and asked for a cigarette. I now smoke only when I am happy, and that was surprisingly a moment of happiness. “Many years ago I was dining with friends in Pagrati and one of them, I want to say a woman around her 50s, a psychotherapist living in Brussels who was visiting her parents’ house in that hood, told my friend, who was facing something similar to your story, something that made me both wonder and feel angry. She told my friend who was 35 at that time “No one belongs to anyone”. She continued saying that we all make our own choices and we experience the consequences of those choices, we name them guilt, betrayal, freedom, pain, whatever you name it, but in the end of the day, those consequences are our own life decisions, life itself. “So you need to make your own choice and let him make his”, she added without judgement or a hint of prejudice.
I let the smoke out of my mouth as slowly as to feel the taste and looked at her sitting elegantly in her red coat across the table. Her hands were so beautifully shaped around her long glass. ” Years before that statement and years after, I faced the truth behind it. I had to experience both my father’s infidelity and my being the other woman to understand this, I guess”. She asked me if I could say more and of course I agreed, every time I hear myself talking about him, I manage to remove another layer of what that story meant to me. Like a bloodless surgery in slow progress. ” Back in July 2011, I saw a photo, that is how it started. A photo of Big Ben reflected on water on the road. I had no idea who the photographer was, nor wanted I to get to know him. I had been single for almost three years, and I was having a very good time as such. So I was not looking for anything at that moment. We started emailing each other, about photography, London, Athens, how he missed Greece, how much I loved visiting London, and soon he called me. I was having my holidays at that time and I found talking to a stranger intriguing and yet scary. Emails are safe, calls are direct. I had never seen his face, but once I heard his voice I was hooked. Have you ever felt that the whole world around you pauses and you can only hear that one thing? Well, that was what I felt. Ironically enough, he always thought I knew about him being married, yet I knew noting. Whenever I was scrolling his photos, I would stop before the ones of his children. How strange was that?”. “And what did you do?” “Well, I still remember the day I found out. I was on the beach chatting with him over emails, when I made the question “What about your personal life? Are you seeing anybody?” His answer felt like a punch in my gut. And back then, I had a choice. A choice to forget about this or not to. It took me days to understand how was it even possible to feel attracted to someone I had never seen before. Well I still don’t, it is one of those games our subconscious plays with us until we get our lesson. What happens when you don’t even know what the lesson is? Weeks and many video calls after, he confessed he was in love with me and that he was utterly out of his comfort zone. Once again I subconsciously made the choice not to stop this. I woke up one day to his message, saying “We need to have a proper first date, there’s a ticket to Paris, I hope you’ll come”. And that was the beginning of something that changed my life. Or better said, that was the choice that changed my life. Months passed and we would meet in Athens or London every month, sometimes more than a week or so. We traveled a lot, we spent nights talking and kissing till dawn, we were naively lost in what was taking place between airports and letters and lies. So many lies. A year later, we got a house together in North Athens and we went for drinks to celebrate about this. That was the first time I saw his weakness to handle the situation, but I chose again to do nothing about it. I loved him too much. Correction, I adored him, I adored every single spot of his body, I knew his face by hard and I had his smell in me all the time. Like when my father was away – he was always away – and I was hiding in my parents’ closet to smell his cloths in order to fell like he was with me. He asked me without questioning my motives, as indeed I had none, “How would you feel having two children?” I knew that me telling him that they are not my children, they will never be and that I would never have this role in his life, was causing him frustration and fear. But I knew this was something he had to face by himself, so I said it out loud. I said the same thing years later when I met those two boys and preferred to remain anonymous despite his brave break through to admit he wanted “the same family with a different wife”.
He was living in a fantasy and I had to wake us both up. I can’t say he did not love me, despite his cruelly plotted end. He adored me or what I was representing for him. I remember once he heard me crying and he got the exact next plane to Athens just to hug me and spend the night with me. He left early the next morning and I took another photo of his empty side of the bed, in my artistic effort to deal with absence. He cared less for the money he would spend to stay with me, he cared less for the lies he had to tell to everyone in order for his second life to develop the way it did. And I though I had no choice, but I always did. I tried to stop this so many times but it felt like resisting a force as strong as gravity, I could not detach from him, stand up and leave. That much I wanted him. Correction, I adored him. And that much I did not love me. He was thirsty to live everything that he had been missing and everything he might have never asked for and I was his ticket to escape. I suffocated in a role that never fit me, but I never said no. That was a choice.”
I lit another cigarette and I told K. how unfair and convenient it is to blame the other person for the distance between a couple. It is the distance two people silently agree to let grow between them so as something to fit in it, that something will keep them together as they can’t cope with this distance themselves. This is what they call a triangle. Remove the third side/person and those two need to face their problems. It is their choice as much as it is your choice to be honest and adult about it. ” In 2013, I lost my job and finally made my old dream come true and moved to London, and that was the first time I ever felt her presence. He never talked badly about her and I admired that, despite all the dark points between them, she had been one of his choices, and I would hate him blaming her or what she was for his choices. I moved in Chelsea and I would see him every day, literally every day and that was never enough! We became each other’s irrational obsession. We would kiss and hold each other everywhere in London without being cautious, would travel to Paris to revive our first date, we were still in a fantasy, which was inevitably insufficient to me for the first time. Reality hit me every time he would leave my flat around midnight, as if he was a teenager going back home before his mother would realize he’s been sneaking out. I remember a night back to my other flat in Maida Vale, he was getting dressed and I said “One day I won’t be in your life and you will be touching her instead of me, doing all the things you’re doing with me, as if you feel like doing them.” He arrogantly replied that touching her disgusted him. I laughed in my head. I knew him so well, yet I kept on trusting him, waiting for him to make decisions for me. So he did months after. Anyway, after all the drama and all the break ups that had followed my coming to London, we commonly agreed to end our relationship in July 2014, exactly three years after we “met in chaos and crashed in one body” as he had told me. He knew the words to say to make me feel special, he was always charmingly eloquent and would easily make you like him. Besides, he’s a good sales man, he listens and speaks in an effortlessly magic way. However, he could not find the words to be honest to himself and I could not find the words to convince me that this role I had being performing, was made for me. I am second to none. We so decided we could be friends, I even picked his younger son’s birthday gift, I loved that little cheeky face so much…”. I stopped and ordered more wine for my friend and I. We decided to stay outside and enjoy the light rain along with our talk. “A month later everything fell apart, it was how the end began. My landlord had decided to sell my flat and I had to find a new place to live. It would have been the forth time I had to search for a place to call home. I was seeing flats and I was on the platform of Sloane Square tube station when he called me from Greece, saying with uncertain voice that he decided he would divorce her and live with me. I panicked and I did not say anything. I was so angry that he had not discussed this with me, although we were always discussing about everything! We were talking a lot, even in our sleep, facing each other’s face, attaching our feet, our backs, our hands. Speech with or without words was our invisible bond. I decided without realizing what I was doing, to hide my anger and fear in order for him to be stronger, stronger than me. What a joke… I was having panic attacks due to my stressful effort to hide myself from myself and he was in despair. I remember him hopelessly telling me over an rarely ugly dinner in London Bridge “I no longer know how to make you happy”. He was feeling lost with me not being excited about his decision. I was feeling lost myself. How could I support a decision made for me, without me? In less than a month, he rent a house with me in Clapham, he told his wife the truth, or so he said, he left me – correction, We – left me homeless, I collapsed, he left his house, he was chasing me on the street, in tube stations, in pubs, coffee shops. And I listened. I loved him. Correction, I adored him. I cried in his arms feeling enormous, unbearable pain and listened to him promising me not to leave me again. He even met my mother to speak with her. And I trusted him. Only this time, I trusted my instinct more. So, I told him that if he wants to build a healthy relationship with me he would first have to build a healthy relationship with himself, do whatever he has to do with her, and then if we would ever “meet” again, we would know, it would be just us. We spent my birthday together and I could feel him leaving again, mentally he was no longer there. I felt the end once again, coming so fast, so intense and I could not react. I froze. He disappeared. He never actually spelled the words “We are over”. I never heard him announcing this new decision. Once more, he made a decision without showing the respect to actually involve me in that. He knew I would never stop him, never did, yet he simply like that put me on mute and returned to what was his reason to come to me in the first place. I have forgiven him for being irresponsibly cruel and inhuman. I never forgave him for demanding my voiceless reaction. I never forgave myself for not having a voice. Funny how similar we were, he had no voice either, he never knew how to speak for himself. It’s been more than a year that I have not spoken with him and I know I won’t anymore. It’s been more than a year that I gave myself a voice. We all make choices, even if we don’t put words in a sentence, silent choices, compromises, but don’t see that as a mistake, it is not. It is a painful way to realize you don’t give yourself the love you deserve. It is a way to see that in reality you always have the option to be faithful to yourself. Many years ago, my mother forgave my father for being unfaithful, God, I was furious with her. I could not let that happen, I felt I had to save her, underestimating her decision to move on. Was my ex another effort of mine to save my mother in my head? Was this a way to realise my father, as all of us, was strong and weak at the same time. It takes loads of strength to build two parallel lives, but it takes guts and soul to be true to yourself despite your weakness. My mother told me once what I read at Kureishi’s novel “I stayed faithful to him, but unfaithful to me. That is why I always felt sorry for N. I have been in his shoes and I decided my family valued more than me”. I can now see her loneliness in her own decision to accept my father’s choices and live with that. I still don’t know if that feels like hell or like oblivion. But do we really ever forget? 8 years ago I was madly in love with a man who cheated on me. I found out the hard way, I saw them together, in front of me. I left as fast as I could before I hid myself in a corner and vomit. I remember me feeling disgusted, almost sick every time he touched me during our effort to be back together.6 months later, I left, it wasn’t for me. What I do know though is that we are responsible for the choices we make, we can always change and move in a unknown direction, we can be mortals in perfect imperfection. I trust you will find your way out, the best possible way to give yourself what you need, but please love yourself more than him and you being together. Find an exit that will be an entrance in a world of your own.”
To my good friend K.
Διάβασα το παρακάτω στην σελίδα μιας φίλης και με ιδιαίτερη χαρά επαναδημοσιεύω:
Αποσπάσματα από το κείμενο “Σχόλια και συνειρμοί σχετικά με την αγάπη και την απώλεια” του καθηγητή Κοινωνικής Ψυχιατρικής Παντείου Παν/μίου, Στέλιου Στυλιανίδη:
“…Το να ερωτευθείς είναι το πρώτο βήμα (…)
Αυτή είναι μόνο η αρχή. (…)
Όμως η αγάπη είναι κάτι άλλο.
(…) η αγάπη είναι πράξη, θέλει δουλειά και χτίσιμο. Δεν είναι κάτι που σου προσφέρεται έτοιμο στο πιάτο. Αυτό αποτελεί τον αληθινό ριζοσπαστισμό της. Η ομορφιά της και το μεγαλείο της, η υπέρβασή της κατά τους φαινομενολόγους, βρίσκεται στη σκληρή και δύσκολη δουλειά.
Δεν είναι μία αυτόματη διαδικασία του «εδώ και τώρα», όπως επιβάλλει η μετα-νεωτερική κουλτούρα της υπερ-κατανάλωσης του άλλου, μέσα σε ένα περιβάλλον «υγρής πραγματικότητας».(Z.Bauman)
Το να στοχάζεσαι και να βιώνεις την αγάπη απαιτεί μια μοναχικότητα (…) Όπως εύστοχα έγραφε ο Ράϊνερ Μαρία Ρίλκε γι’αυτό το είδος της αγάπης: «δύο μοναξιές προστατεύουν, και αγγίζουν και καλοσωρίζουν η μία την άλλη». Δεν υπάρχει αυθεντικός και ριζοσπαστικός έρωτας χωρίς μοναχικότητα. Αυτή η «ικανότητα να μένει κανείς μόνος», όπως έλεγε ο Winnicott, χωρίς να βιώνει τον φόβο της κατάρρευσης από τη στιγμιαία έλλειψη της παρουσίας του Άλλου, μπορεί να οδηγήσει σε αυτό που ο Alain Badiou ονόμασε αφοσίωση.
(…) Ο Οβίδιος το έγραψε με μια λεπτή ειρωνεία: «Αυτό που ζητά, φοβάται ότι θα το αποκτήσει, αυτό που δεν ζητά το εύχεται».
Γνωρίζουμε πόσο δύσκολο, αν όχι αδύνατο είναι, όταν είμαστε ερωτευμένοι, να πάρουμε μία απόσταση από την παγίδα της ακραίας εξιδανίκευσης του έρωτα. Παρά την σκληρή αναμέτρηση με την εξωτερική πραγματικότητα και την πραγματικότητα του Άλλου, έχουμε ανάγκη να αγκαλιάσουμε αυτό τον αδύνατο ιδεώδες της παντοτινής ένωσης. Κάπου μέσα μας γνωρίζοντας ότι αυτός ο σκοπός είναι αδύνατον να επιτευχθεί στην ολότητά του, με κίνδυνο να υποστούμε το βαρύ κόστος της διάψευσης, συνεχίζουμε να εργαζόμαστε ψυχικά και συναισθηματικά για την πραγμάτωση αυτής της αυταπάτης. Γιατί κάπου μέσα μας την πιστεύουμε και κάπου την διαψεύδουμε. Ίσως αυτή να είναι και η ουσία της συνθήκης να αγαπά κανείς ολοκληρωτικά. Η ήττα της εκλογίκευσης απέναντι στο μεγαλείο του ολοκληρωτικού ιδεώδους. ”