I remember being devastated for weeks after. One night, some nights after, I was waiting for my train in Penn Station watching a young couple kiss and an old couple next to them argue, and I thought to myself: why was that love always one or the other? Why has love always felt to me one or the other?
After that I remember spending a lot of time by the Danube. It began transitioning from a place of refuge to my wanting it to open up and swallow me whole. I remember spending time in company and feeling as if parts of me were crumbling away, and being by myself and feeling like I was drowning in open air.
It was only when I repeatedly found myself in certain places I hadn’t been to since December that I realized how much I was suppressing in desperation to forget my pain. Fövám tèr. Á Table Boulangerie. The word ‘fooding’ (non-existent in the dictionary). The walk of a stranger that mimicked his. Finding that brown summer dress. Letters. My Chanel perfume. 5AM by Amber Run. So I began to do the only thing I could think of to move on from my pain- reclaim these bits and pieces for myself. Listen to that song until it becomes sickening. Sit by Fövám tèr until the last metro home. Wear that dress until it becomes ragged. Use up the perfume. Go back to that coffee shop. But pain and depression ride separate waves…so I push myself each day and come up with concepts like ‘reclaiming’ (!). I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve felt helpless. But still I keep pushing myself- to get out of bed when I’d rather hide under the covers, to make dinner when I’ve fasted all day, to get in that one more punch when boxing. But you know always gets to me? That continual nightmares. I’m never in control, things happen to me. I get lost, I drown, I see violence. I can’t stand the complexity, vividness, and most of all pain in them. I can’t push that away you know? It feels like my mind is under siege. The way out? Je ne sais quoi…
June/ Waters that talk back
Something about bodies of water deeply unsettles me. It may not sound very peculiar until I tell you that I don’t take baths because I’m afraid I’ll drown, I wait around for clogged-soapy water in the sink to drain, until I tell you that these past months I’ve sat and walked by the Danube so many times wanting to throw myself into its dark, drawing waters to escape my depression. Something about the river haunts me and occupied my thoughts whenever I’m near it at night. I can’t keep from going back to it again and again.
I’m reminded of a time I caught the stare of a young woman on the metro. I don’t know why she kept watching me. When I met her dark, icy eyes I felt my heart drop to my stomach. I looked away but also felt some internal force compel me to stare back at her. Could she see through me? Did she know things I was afraid of? Why did she remind me of the river, and only this river, at night?
I tried to deal with my overflowing grief by writing letters. I wrote pages and pages of letters to myself, to him. Then I gathered them all with Jeff the Owl and stored everything away under my bed not to be visited again for months. I felt safe in the knowledge that nobody could take my memories away from me. I came across the letters again when I was packing to move apartments. I couldn’t bring myself to throw anything away even though I knew their value was buried only in the past that I visited in my mind. I’ve spent the past evenings locked in my room, reading the letters again including letters from happier days. You know how after a certain time has passed, you are able to look back and think, “How did I miss that red flag and that one and…”? That thought came to my mind a bunch of times, but what really made my heart sink was recalling myself sitting on my desk, writings the words I was reading now, knowing that I couldn’t go back in time to save myself from months of pain that stood waiting for me in the shadows.
(from letters in Jan/Feb)
“I must embrace my sadness, my frustrations, the pain of dreams that will never come true, the touch that will not be felt anymore, and embrace only myself…”
“…for the first time I dreamt the full experience of a sexual assault…I’ve drowned on my dreams, I don’t change streets when I see groups if strange men on the same street as me, I know the pain of realizing your failings, and worse, your parents realizing them too…”
I just finished a book called The Romantic Movement by the wonderful Alain de Botton (yes, the same genius behind the School of Life channel on Youtube). In this book, he follows the relationship between Alice and Eric, from their first meeting to the end, filling with the story with musings on why each character acts the way they did, drawing from both schools of psychology and philosophy. So when Eric refuses to engage with Alice when she frequently tries to convey her grievances to him, de Botton explains that Eric suffers from a fear of ‘emotional nudity’, a consistent pattern of thought that things were always to be blamed to the other person, a fear of being vulnerable, a trace of feelings from his childhood when his mother constantly overbearing and rarely allowed him to have agency..
It’s an intelligent book, insightful and witty. I could not help but identify with pieces of Alice and Eric occasionally, and when I put it down, I began staring at my ceiling ,and the first thought that came into my mind was: Why are you still in Budapest?
See, what the book had done for me, besides enlightening me to my own thought patterns which is of course the first step to changing them (if you feel them problematic, ofcourse), was momentarily stripping me of these questions and doubts that had been hanging around in my mind for many weeks- mostly related to the things I have written about previously- and that I happily dumped on my therapist every week, and pointed to a single glaring question: Why are you still living in a country you don’t see a content and happy life developing?
‘I have to stay here because I need to finish my thesis…’
‘I’m anxious about packing up and moving again, finding a job etc… I’ve been moving for so long…and where would I go?’
The essential issue, as I understand it, is that because my mind is still in the ‘journey’ mode, that I haven’t found a job and a city I will be mostly if not completely content with (Edinburgh is the dream..), that I’m still learning to be content with feeling frighteningly alone and being OK about that, that there’s constantly thoughts running in my head (and the problem isn’t that many thoughts and questions exist, but whether and how they impair one’s quality of life)… I’m going to be doing a lot of searching (both literal and metaphorical) and probably moving (both literal and metaphorical) in the near future. I’d hate to be grounded (both literal and metaphorical). This is how you spend your twenties anyway right?