to deserve love is to give it

You know, the older I get, the more I realize that

the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.

For example, I wrote a poem for last year’s National Poetry Writing Month in April called “too much credit“. In it, I tried to explain that because I had been loved, truly loved, by others, I thought myself capable of doing the same. As time passes, I realize that accepting love and loving are different muscles. You have to flex much more for one than the other.

And not only flex, but learn, and compromise (not give up, or give in), and grow as a human being. It is easy to love perfect people. It is easy to love as a “perfect person”.

It is a much more arduous, but also more human task to love imperfect people in your imperfect ways: people who hurt you, who fuck up (constantly), who forget, who give up in a million little ways every day, whose spirit you have to seek out, who ask and ask and ask and forget to give, who disappoint.

I credited myself
for thinking I was strong,
good in relationships.
Dependable woman. Excellent at loving.

It is easy to believe that because people are kind to you, that you must be a good person. You feel like a good person, even, for a while. And being loved is a wonderful thing. When people meet your expectations of how you should be treated – that’s a beautiful, satisfying moment. And yes, everyone deserves good treatment, but they do not always get treated well. That is the brunt of it.

Lately I’ve been thinking about this North American rhetoric involved with “deserving love”. In general, I like it. I think it’s a fabulous ego boost and a strong (and very convincing) call to individualism, self-love, self-dependency and even feminism. The unfortunate reality that I’ve been trying to face is multilayered, and it has made me reevaluate a lot about the way I approach people.

  1. Life is not fair. Everyone that deserves love does not obtain it just because they “deserve” it. You do not earn love through actions and you do not have to be great to be loved. People are loved because people are loved. Sometimes fairly, sometimes not enough, sometimes too much for who it appears they are as a person. Try to not let this kill you.
  2. Deserving love is a false premise. You must be ready to receive no love and still hold love in your heart for others. That is (I believe) when love will arrive. I have struggled with too-high expectations for others my entire life. Everyone had to live up to some sort of magical fairy godmother standard, and yet even my fairy godmother has let me down countless, countless times. What then? Do you give up? Give in? When the illusion of your parents crumbles, do you give up? Do you give in? Or do you accept the complexity of human nature and attempt to understand their intention? Do you find kindness when you come up against disappointment?
  3. I have known people who have met a lack of love with a newfound hardness. This was not something I was ever able to cultivate in myself, even though many nights I wished for it. “How do they just stop caring?” I asked, over and over. I have instead discovered how to use anger, how to feel anger, how to see the injustice for what it is, and realize that giving love when it is not deserved is not a fault on my end, but sometimes can be a blessing for others.
  4. You also are not a good person just because others have been good to you. (This has been hard for me to accept). That does not mean you have “deserved” it more than others. This does not automatically mean everything you do is good for others. You have been palpably lucky and you should never take that for granted. You should live up to it in the best way you can.
    Note that the reverse of this is also deeply true: you are not a bad person because others have been bad to you.
  5. There is only a strong correlation between you being loved well, and you loving others well when you put conscious thought into giving back and understanding other people. When you undertake empathy as a key part of your love, but also when you understand and treat healthy boundaries with the respect they deserve.
  6. Loving is a muscle that takes flexing because being loved can sometimes fool us into believing that we are perfect, we are great, we are amazing! This is okay – “love lifts us up where we belong,” etc, but we are not perfect. We fall incredibly short of perfect – this is also okay. In order to love others well, we have to be able to acknowledge and accept that we do not always love well. We have to acknowledge our weakness, but also our humanity, and simultaneously accept both and strive to improve them.
  7. We have to be humble enough to improve, and hungry enough to acknowledge what’s on our plate and not get distressed by the road ahead. We have to be strong enough to create boundaries between love that hurts – because love is not a measure of a person’s impact on our lives, nor how well they treat us, unfortunately. It is also okay to love people imperfectly.
  8. You do not have to be great to be loved. But. Be great anyway. Find love, anyway. Give love, anyway. When love comes, accept it despite your fear. Despite knowing that you did nothing to deserve this. Accept it as part of the universe that we do not understand. It is okay to feel scared that you do not deserve it. You don’t.
  9. But how lucky are you to receive it? Use your luck by loving someone else so fiercely that it inspires them to do the same. Accept the love. Accept the love. Accept the love because it can be so rare and so nonsensical that this is all we can do with it.

Now, read one of my favourite poems of all time, Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese”, who I have just thought of after writing this post for months and months and months and who has clearly invaded my entire conscience.

¡besitos!

it is a weeping, and a moaning, and a gnashing of teeth

You know how I get through heartbreak?

Easier each time and each time more brutal.

Because after every heartbreak I end up investing in myself with a healthy dose of forced optimism. But not only myself, also in my closest, and most valuable relationships.

After I broke up with my first real long-term boyfriend (we were together for 6 years, from when I was 17 to 23) I had no idea who I was without him at my side. I was totally lost, but not angry. I was just curious and a little empty.

So, because I no longer had to pay rent and my parents took pity on me, I saved a ton’o’cash and took off to Europe for 3 months. I made a shit ton of mistakes at the very get go and spent the rest of the trip trying to pick myself back up, swaying between going home early or pushing through till my actual booked return trip.

And you know what? Parts of it sucked. I wasn’t used to taking care of myself. That’s the shit truth of it.

I had relied on my ex to pick me up when I was drunk or sad or lonely, and had no idea how to get through those feels on my own, and to do it then without my family or friends? UGH. Brutal. Nights and mornings crying in a hostel bed quietly so that no other strangers would hear you, sneaking away to shower so nobody could see your puffy eyes (not that they would care)… I was that person for like, a good week. And then some. BUT I still went out. I forced myself to go because I knew that real life would hit me sooner rather than later and I was privileged enough to be in goddamn EUROPE. I WAS HERE. I had fucked up a little and made life a little more unsure for myself, but I was here and I was going to goddamn take things in, if only so that I could write about/enjoy them later, in hindsight. (I did. I paraglided in the fucking French Alps, hey.)

Also, I was there to try to figure out if I could… be away. I had been pussy-footing around the idea of moving out and away from my family since the end of high school, when I had promised everyone to go SO far away for uni. Surprise, surprise, I ended up going about 30km away, and then switching universities after my first year (variety of reasons, both academic and personal) and moving back home for the rest of my undergrad.

Truth backhanded me like a MOTHER when I went to travel for 3 months. I didn’t like being away. I LOVED travelling. Still do and go every chance I get. But it was exhausting being away for so long by yourself, and having no one person to share it with. I made so many friends while I was there and met up with them intermittently throughout the rest of the trip, but it wasn’t family. It wasn’t my best friends that I had known since grade 6, listening to me cry over Skype. It wasn’t these new drunken compatriots who were counting down my return date. It wasn’t them that wrote me emails (who writes emails anymore) about how it’s okay to make mistakes and how they miss bitching to me about life and choices and love.

It was my people. My friends were my fucking peopleI had somehow managed to find these beautiful, fiery, curious, hungry souls and cull them into a circle of folks that are like the most fabulous army of support I’ve ever seen or heard about (ain’t nobody messin’ with my clique etc). When I’m with them, any combination or number or just one of em? God, it’s like my nerve endings are just bathed in positive karmic vitamins, even if my stomach is being bathed in Korean bbq way past dinnertime or my ears are being assaulted by a Beyoncé dance party or someone’s actually just yelling at me for being a diva (all things these fools do with me/to me). #yoga #karma #essence #millennial

And god knows, I love my travel buds. I have met up with more than a couple in the years since, bless. But it was by being away that I found the true treasure that had been waiting at home for me. I thought I couldn’t possibly agree with my family. I thought this life, here, Toronto, couldn’t satisfy me. I was bored, and yes, kind of angry at that point, and lost.

You know what I learned? I was being superficial. I was being greedy and unrealistic and dismissive of the blessings that were already provided for me – not to the extent that many people are, but I was nevertheless. I don’t get off the hook that easy, and I thought that this sort of realization was so cliché that it had to, at least, be hard-earned.

I wasn’t appreciating the friends that told me when I was being a shitty human being and making the same stupid mistakes, and letting me cry on their shoulders after I had bad dates, and going with me to art shows and coming to my poetry readings and baking me cookies and cakes when I was sick. I wasn’t appreciating my family – my weirdly non-traditional, open-minded, liberal (in their considerable conservativeness), supportive, hopeful, space-giving, food-making, straight-talking family.

The family that will accept those whom I claim to love without a second thought, simply because I love them. The family that will invite anyone, from any culture or opinion or religion, to our Easters and Christmases and Thanksgivings and birthdays. The family that will pick me up and up and up over again without complaint. The family that will tear open their own beliefs to welcome yours in. The family that will sit with me in the front hall and break down my love. The family that will sit on my bed and break down to me. The family where vulnerability is and forever will be strength and openness is a virtue. Where trust and honesty and being a good person trumps any paper or cross or book you can hand over about who you claim to be. The family where you can be flawed and fucked up and that just makes you more beautiful and more bearable and more ours. 

So maybe I’m still being entitled.

Yes, love. Love, I want you. But I already have you, too.

So this? This heartbreak isn’t so bad. It’s only a bit. It’s only a slice. It only took a little. I have the rest.

And he has so much less.

Loss of a Dream (Ode to Adrienne Rich’s Splittings) TEDx Markham Public Library

Hi all.

Long time, no rumble. Life has been hectic and all-encompassing. I’m okay not writing sometimes because I’m too busy living. But let’s be real. At the end of the day, nothing makes sense if I can’t write.

In 2015 I made it a goal to focus on performance. To improve as a performer, or at least to practice being one. By no means was I a good performer in 2014. I didn’t become a great performer in 2015, either, but I definitely got closer. I still feel like throwing up when I go on stage. I still get sweats. I still forget my words. My hands shake. I’m the perfect example of why public speaking is the world’s biggest fear. But.

I’m not scared of fear.

I refuse to let it consume me or concern me or stop me from doing things I feel strongly about. Performing, reading, being on stage, speaking the things I have written and finally connecting to people with those ideas… I am relentless about this. I have tasted it and it is everything that I’ve been looking for. I am okay being vulnerable on stage. As long as you’re being vulnerable with me.

Because of that, this year (even in the past few months) I’ve performed more than at any other point in my life. Because of that, I was afforded opportunities I couldn’t possibly have dreamed of when I was say, 21, and trying to put my life together.

I’m 25. I can. And I will. And if I fuck up, I’ll try again until I get it right.

So, I applied to TEDx. Not for a presentation, but for a performance. A performance that was always closely linked with my Russian roots, with storytelling, with my love of music and inability to sing. When I was accepted, I started pulling together my thoughts.

These are my thoughts, with the support of Peter Ellman’s beautiful musical theory playing me in and out.

Enjoy!

too warm to be cold, too wet to be sober

You are a city
in January,
overcast,
with a wet bus rolling through it
and its lights
cut through the air
like warm knives.

Sparse crowds
step in slush piles
of dirty snow
to get to the sidewalk.

You are a foreign city
in the midst
of winter
and I cannot keep my
feet warm in you.

 

Balancing act

When I complained to my mother about fearing like I wanted love too much for it to actually come willingly to me, I invoked the saying, “A watched pot never boils,” to prove my point.

She replied, “I bought a see-through teapot so I can watch it boil every day. Sometimes, it is just about telling the universe that you want tea.”

 

 

someone I did not see

I never learned to love
someone I did not see.

I learned to love
the stoop of my grandmother’s back
as she rinsed clean her fingers
of beets as red as blood,
for a table pregnant with love,
for a family troubled as any.

I learned to love
the smell that clung
to my grandfather’s stark fingers and yellowing
beard,
and the way those fingers
could provide flats of wood
for my imagination to carve
in an instant. The way he took nothing
to be worthwhile for believing in,
except for effort
and learning.

I learned to love
the voice of a woman
who was born from the womb
of generosity. She hated being photographed
but gave you a spotlight
for every moment
you dared exist
in her orbit. Her gift
is her giving
is her religion.

I may not be religious. May not
speak with Gods or Goddesses at night.
May not eat the dish
of your particular despair or hope.
But I know love. I know it in my tongue:
how utterly luscious it tastes
with all its desperation
and grit.

I never learned to love someone
I did not see. I learned
to love
the grit
of trying to love
the imperfect things;
the real people.

now, no place

Before you,
there existed a place
(inside me)
a room.
Unplastered.
Under construction.
Young kids
without fear
would come and
graffiti the ceiling.
I would scrub
and scrub
with a wire brush
until my cuticles bled.
Still, shadows.
Echoes
to paint over
but I’d know
would still exist.

Now, no place exists
without you.
You are the perfume
in the rooms
of my soul. No
room without your
essence,
no wallpaper untouched
by its rosewater,
leather,
late afternoon weather.
A memory embedded
in my present sight,
touching everything
with a soft shade
of
“yearn” and “require”

What graffiti?
What echo?
What hurt?

You are the room.
There is no
living in this house
without you.