This is a story about what might have been; a story about a life I might have led: might, of course, in the sense of possibility – and might, equally, in the sense that perhaps it happened after all.
There is a difference between dignity and pride.
This was clarified to me yesterday at the Slavery exhibition in Liverpool’s Maritime Museum on the Albert Dock.
I knew it all along; have felt it perhaps for most of my life.
You become omnipotent, and pride possesses you: one day, hubris too.
It’s the pride before a fall, not the pride in place or time or in nation or in peoples or in communities or in cultures or in literatures that may so nourish our shared senses of ourselves, and the humans we would like to be – often against and despite our worst instincts.
But whilst pride before a fall is a terrible thing, a desire for dignity is not.
I am currently in the grip of a Milgram experiment, and the people who are being tested are not myself, though they have been led to believe so. In their obedience to the organisers of the test, they have allowed much pain to my person, incomprehension to my intellect, and aggression to my soul. And they do so because they completely believe it is to my benefit: they have been told this, they probably wanted to believe it too: for they saw the sad soul I was becoming as a result of the aftermaths of terrible emotional trauma, which had laid down deep roots and led to me to eleven-year depression. Who, under such circumstances, wouldn’t want to collaborate in the making of a promised land for a lost individual?
And if it made great TV for cable and satellite distribution, so much the better.
It all happened because I fell out of love with a wife who refused to embrace me from our wedding-night.
Sixteen years and three children later – their conception, I now figure, dissatisfying for me and entirely the worst kind of Calvary for my spouse (even as all three children are entirely beloved by both parents and are, I believe, able to love back in ways I still misunderstand) – I then fell deeply in love with my eldest cousin.
I have never fallen out of love with her, though she ended up rejecting my proposal of marriage in two ways: second, by denying she had ever made the suggestion herself – which is utterly and rankly untrue; first, by simply and flatly saying no, which is utterly and rightly fair.
But I have never left the moment and place of that love.
What has changed today is that this now belongs to my past, and if my social-networked bios* begin to suggest the eleven-year period of depression is now over, it is because it is. That time and love, whilst always eternal, will wait no longer for the resolution I want. Such emotions are infinite in their benevolent acceptance as well as hungry desire; but minutes – as I have mentioned recently – are finite as they come.
And I no longer want to discard my own life on the bonfire of sadnesses that this relationship has brought to me over these awful years: a heat and warmth which seemed, in the end, to burn rather than embrace; a sensibility which, at the minute, has become totally insensible.
Or maybe that’s unsensible. Senseless, we should say – but unsensible seems more appropriate for some reason.
So the Slavery exhibition brought home to me, where her love – as it had every right to express itself – saw itself unable to convince, the importance of moving on: truly, almost violently – with as much fierce assertion as one civilisingly can express – by simply, frankly, safely and securely, ultimately making some active choice.
And I bear no grudges for her choice: choosing not to be with people is a basic human need, want and right in human, moral and perfectly natural laws. Equally, if we are to remain respectful beings, I myself have no right, a priori and in a declaiming manner, to affirmatively choose a person to be with: people are not chattels – objects to be selected from a stall – and in a 21st century where real civilisation must rule, that is perhaps one of my most fundamental moral frameworks.
What I do choose is the nature of my future: a future which maybe looks to people and places I have not yet met; which looks to friends as forming part of what I see as my family, and any family which remains in this new definition being only those I would want to have as friends: out of choice, not bloodline; out of love, not obligation.
If, then, anyone at all fits into this framework – this internal moral universe of mine – and one day we meet, or maybe we have already met, and the curious synchronicity of love makes it possible for us respectfully not to chattel our relationship – ever! – then I am open to anyone and everyone out there.
And maybe, too, even those people from my past. Even – dare I say – to my beloved eldest cousin. If on one day which coincided with the wants I now am determined to behold, in the timeframe I have set myself, in the years and professional trajectory I have left, we both did equally coincide together out of mutual desire, then no one would have a right to predict what could happen.
Never say never, right?
Within reason. Within reason. Within reason, and within the need to be dignified. Remember the right to dignity above all. The right to dignity, and not (the totally unacceptable) pride before a fall, is always going to be prime.
And please don’t confuse the two ideas. Never (and here I do use the word!) obfuscate this truth.
And so I do not say one person, and I do not say three: I just say that what I’ve wanted for so long – beyond any person in particular these days; beyond an obsession with romantic entanglement which could easily bring another eleven years of severe emotional pain (or – and I do not say this lightly at all – much less …) – is the freedom to be the person I want to see.
The freedom to be happy, employable, and at peace with my being: with the surroundings, environment, individuals and communities I end up thriving in for the rest of my life.
And maybe, just maybe, being able to enjoy the good fortune to love too.
* I mean “biographies” here, but if the abbreviation can also signify an IT-informed “BIOS”, perhaps this is a happy coincidence which is – as well – all to the good!