Something new

Something snapped in me today.

Something about a lifetime spent trying to please, trying to be a good girl, trying to do the right thing. Always trying to be more like this or more like that, according to judgements of anybody and anything. Trying to explain myself, over, and over, and over, till I myself would completely forget my reason for doing anything.

The real reason, which would almost certainly be: I didn’t think, I just did, I am sorry.

Something in me today decided that I’d had enough. 43 is arguably a mature enough age to say you know what? I am what I am. I have done good, in my time, I have done bad. I have been kind, and I have been cruel. I know that I ALWAYS tried to do my best, I never meant to hurt anyone.

I know that in a lifetime I have always loved and trusted first, until people worked so hard to make me lose that love and that trust and even then, I would always, ALWAYS be ready to give them a second, third, fourth, nth chance.

When my brother allegedly first got rid of all my journals, I was desperate. All that I had written , since I was a little girl, all gone. They were my court case, they were something I would read many years from now, or someone else might, and pass judgement on. Has she been good. Was that her fault. Was she just bad, uncaring, selfish, cruel, a bully?

I was desperate because I felt that all the reasons why I was like I was were enclosed in those journals. And then I carried on writing, here and there. I tried novelising, but it was useless: my life just kept happening, things kept happening, I myself didn’t even know why things kept happening to me and why I kept making things happen.

Years of crying like an idiot because I felt unfairly judged. It’s time I stopped. That’s what snapped.

I’ve been through misery, trauma, death and destruction than most of the people I have ever spoken to in my life. I have also been through, received and given joy and wellbeing. I have paid for anything I may have done or will do ten times over, and the fear of retaliation or punishment has NEVER been the reason for me not doing something. My conscience is crystal clear.

On the other hand, I have stopped myself over and over again. Trying to do the right thing. Changing my mind because so and so said that or the other.

Enough.

I want to try, I may fail, but I want to try and just wake up one morning, make a decision I’ve actually been thinking about for months, and live to regret it or be pleasantly surprised by it. I make a decision and despite my best efforts somebody might get hurt, as always, as for everyone. People’s standards for me are higher than they realise, and the one person that sets those standards is none other than yours truly.

So perhaps I should stop. I let you judge me, or be indifferent to me. I let you make the wrong assumptions about me, or know me better than I know myself. I honestly don’t care anymore. At least I hope. I hope I don’t change my mind tomorrow. It makes my head spin.

Sul mio e il tuo compleanno/On my birthday and yours

(Scroll down for English)

In Toscana, invece di dire buon compleanno, dicono “hai finito gli anni”.

Questa piccola ma forte espressione mi e’ sembrata subito la più adeguata ad esprimere un giorno cosi’ importante come il compleanno. Compleanno: compiere gli anni: finirli appunto. Ma in italiano ormai la forza dell’espressione si e’ persa, invece con questa espressione toscana per me si e’ ristabilita.

Ho finito gli anni. Ho finito di vivere 43 anni, e ora ne inizio uno nuovo. L’anno prossimo, quando l’avrò finito, potrò festeggiare. Con chi mi e’ caro, ma anche con chi mi ha aiutato a finirlo, quest’anno, ancora viva, con serenità, con felicita’. Qualcuno con un gesto online affettuoso, qualcuno con un’occasionale chiacchierata intensa, qualcuno lavorando insieme a me e facendomi sorridere o facendomi sentire utile e importante. Qualcuno come cliente, un anziano magari, grato è che avrà una giornata migliore grazie a me e mi fa sentire di contribuire seppure in minima parte a quella bella giornata.

Ho sempre pensato che i compleanni fossero importanti, ma non, come spesso accade tra le persone, importanti perché vuoi che qualcuno faccia cose per te, che ti si portino regali. Quello é un retaggio del passato, del nostro passato, infantile: nei compleanni quando siamo bambini, in effetti, sono gli altri che ci dicono: “siamo felici che tu sia nato/a!”. Un vero “birthday”, all’inglese (giorno di nascita). Ma nel momento in cui siamo indipendenti o viviamo secondo le nostre decisioni (ed é per questo che il 18imo compleanno di solito é cosi importante), il compleanno dovrebbe servire per dire a sé stessi: “Ok, ho finito quest’anno, sono sopravvissuto e per questo festeggio. Ma é anche il momento di festeggiare con chi mi ha aiutato ad arrivarci, essere grato per chi é stato di sostegno, e decidere chi mi porto dietro e chi no, cosa mi porto dietro e cosa no, nell’anno a venire”.

Questo, secondo me, e’ un compleanno, e questo, secondo me, e’ il motivo per cui il compleanno andrebbe sempre “festeggiato”. Se ti trovi da solo il giorno del tuo compleanno, ed e’ una scelta, evviva! Vivi e godi della tua solitudine. Se sei solo e non ne sei felice, e’ il momento di fare il punto della situazione, capire come mai sei da solo, e capire cosa fare per cambiarla, la situazione.

Invece purtroppo ho spesso notato gente che si lamenta perché e’ solo al compleanno, o perché nessuno ha fatto nulla. Non sta a loro farlo, sta a te! E’ il giorno in cui TU hai finito gli anni, e non sei piu’ un bambino a cui bisogna fare le cose: sei tu che le crei.

Ogni anno, dal mio 16imo compleanno (il primo anno in cui ero fuori di casa), ho sempre voluto passarlo a Roma, la città dove sono nata e dove non ho mai potuto vivere e che ho sempre amato con passione, il simbolo della mia eterna mancanza di “casa”. Come un’ossessione, dovunque andassi, con chiunque fossi, lo volevo passare a Roma. Solo una volta sono riuscita a farlo, quasi obbligando l’uomo che mi piaceva allora a portarmici, e lui ha passato tutta la giornata a parlarmi della sua ex. Io, per ripicca e con gusto, mi sono fata comprare un mazzo di tarocchi di Salvador Dali costosissimo (lui era ricco).

Nel 1997, dopo un paio di mesi che e’ nato mio figlio, dopo un paio di mesi di ospedale perchè mio figlio appena nato si era spaccato la testa, dopo che una settimana di tranquillità e serenità si era conclusa con una bellissima cena in cui per la prima volta dacché ricordassi ho visto mia madre contenta e serena e ho cominciato a sperare che potessimo finalmente avere un rapporto madre-figlia, 4 giorni prima del mio compleanno, mia madre e’ morta. Da allora ogni compleanno e’ stato preceduto da giorni di cupa tristezza, ma soprattutto rabbia: alla mia rabbia per l’assenza della mia casa madre, Roma, si aggiungeva la rabbia per la mancanza definitiva di mia madre, rabbia verso di lei, per non essere stata madre prima. Ma, quasi sempre, la mia nuova famiglia, e i miei amici, sono sempre riusciti in quei pochi giorni a trasformare quantomeno in solo un attimo di tristezza il mio compleanno: c’e’ anche da dire che ostinatamente ho sempre scelto io di fare esattamente cio’ che volevo per il mio compleanno: se non poteva essere Roma, allora che fosse il cinema, o guardare Buffy tutto il giorno, o fare una passeggiata in un bosco.

Le persone che ho intorno al mio compleanno, quasi come un cerimoniale sacro, sono sempre scelta con molta cura. Se Capodanno ha la tendenza, come i matrimonio e i funerali anche se in modo meno tragico, a quasi magicamente mostrarci lui stesso chi ci porteremo nell’anno che viene e chi no, il compleanno e’ davvero una scelta tua. Magari non avrai presente al tuo compleanno tutte le persone che ti sono state vicine, ovviamente. Ma le avrai in testa, fai una nota mentale. E, nello stesso modo, fai attivamente una nota mentale di chi non ti aiuterà a iniziare un nuovo anno, perché non ti ha aiutato, o magari ti ha reso più difficile, finire questo.

E questo mi porta al pensiero recente, a una cara amica che mi ha definita dura a giudicare gli altri. Io faccio sempre quel che vorrei fosse fatto con me, e sono sempre grata a chi mi dice cose su di me, perché se non mi dici tu come mi vedi, per me’ più difficile guardarmi da fuori. E ci ho riflettuto, perché non mi ero mai vista cosi’. Dura nel giudicare gli altri.

Ci ho riflettuto e vedo che in effetti io non giudico. Non giudico nessuno perche’ non sono giudice. Ma effettivamente, essendo una persona estremamente fragile, con un appiglio alla vita e alla sanità estremamente flebile, e dovendo sopravvivere ad ogni costo per il bene di chi amo, sono molto molto critica nei confronti di chi ho vicino. Non perche’ giudichi il loro comportamento in se’, ma perche’ molto semplicemente mi domando: la tua presenza nella mia vita, mi e’ di aiuto, di conforto, di stabilita’, di gioia? O e’ una presenza destabilizzante, che potenzialmente mi nuoce, negativa? Se la seconda ipotesi si reputa vera, io non ho nessun giudizio nei confronti di quella persona, ma l’allontanerò da me.

Credo che questo metodo potrebbe applicarsi a tutti: in fondo, se ti fa male mangiare il pomodoro, lo eviti, no? E’ chiaro che con le persone e’ piu’ complesso. Ci puo’ volere piu’ tempo. Ci puo’ volere un metodo per mettere tutto sulla bilancia e pesare e confrontare il bene contro il male, cio’ che la persona ti da’, e cio’ che la persona ti toglie. Io lo faccio tutti i giorni, con tutti, da mio marito, ai miei amici, al mio lavoro. Non per nulla sono una bilancia :) Non giudico, non ti dico sei una brutta o una bella persona. Posso al limite, se ti voglio bene, buttarti li’ che secondo me questo comportamento ti portera’ alla felicita’ o all’infelicita’. Ma e’ solo una mia impressione, e come io vorrei che la condividessi con me, per il mio bene, cosi io lo condivido con te. Poi sta a te allontanarti da me se quel che ti dico non ti piace o, come per qualche motivo a volte e’ successo, ti reca offesa. Ma sta anche a me un giorno decidere: “Sai cosa? La tua presenza nella mia vita mi porta piu’ infelicita’ che benessere. E’ meglio per me dunque allontanarmi da te. Almeno finche’ le circostanze non cambino.”

Tutto qua.

Non vi e’ giudizio. Tutti facciamo il possibile per sopravvivere. Non giudico quel che tu fai per sopravivere, qualsiasi cosa sia. Ma se quel che fai rende più difficile per me sopravvivere, bisogna che ci allontaniamo.

O, viceversa, se la tua presenza nella mia vita mi rende molto, molto più facile sopravvivere, io ti voglio vicino, e vorrò festeggiare con te: perché grazie a te, io ho finito un altro anno, e mi accingo ad iniziarne un altro, tutto nuovo e pieno di potenziale.

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Tuscan people say, instead of “Buon compleanno” (the common italian expression for “Happy Birthday”), “You finished the years” (“Hai finito gli anni”). It completely transformed or rather confirmed and strengthened how I always felt about birthdays. The implication, in that phrase, is that you completed, you finished a year. You should celebrate because you survived.

I finished this year. I finished living 43 years, and now I am about to start a new one. Next year, when I will have finished this one, I will be able to celebrate. I will celebrate with those dear to me, but also with those who have helped me finish this year, still alive, maybe even happy and serene. Someone may have helped with a friendly gesture online, others will have sustained me through the crises, others still by just being there when I go to work and smiling and being themselves, others by being a happier customer, maybe an elderly one I may have contributed in making their day a little happier for.

I always thought birthdays were very important. Although not, like many people, because they expect others to do things for them, to bring them gifts. I believe that is something that harks back to our past, our childhood. Indeed, up until you are independent it is very much your family and friends and parents saying: “We are so happy your were born!” Really, a “birth” day. But when we are older, it is not about being born, it is about telling yourself: “Heh, there goes another year I survived. I did well, I will celebrate my achievement of having finished this one, and then I will get ready for the next one to come”. And, on our birthday, we may decide to celebrate with those who have helped us through this year, and we may decide who we will carry with us into the next year, and who we won’t.

This is what a birthday is. According to me. It is also the reason why it should be celebrated, somehow, in whatever shape or form we choose that will best exemplify the period of life we are going through. If you are alone on your birthday and it is your choice, hurray! Rejoice in your aloneness and celebrate it. If you are not happy about it, it is the right time to sit and think about why it is so, really, and what you can do in the coming year to change the situation.

On the other hand, I have often noticed people get sad on their birthday because they are alone, or because nobody did anything for it. It’s up to anybody else, it’s up to you! It is the day YOU have finished your years, and you are no longer a child that depends on others to make their life, it is YOU.

Every year, since my 16th birthday (the first year I moved out of my home) I had always wanted to spend it in Rome, the city where I was born and where I was never able to live and that I always loved with passion, the symbol of my eternal lack of a “home”. Like an obsession, no matter where I was or who I was with, I wanted to spend my birthday, alone at first and later with my son, in Rome. One year I succeeded, pretty much forcing the man I liked to take me there, and he spent the whole day talking about his ex girlfriend. In return and with spite, I got him to buy me a very very expensive Salvador Dali Tarot Card deck.

In 1997, after a couple of months that my son was born, after a couple of months of hospital because my newborn son has cracked his head, after a week of serenity that had ended with a lovely dinner during which my mum seemed happy and content for the first time and for the first time I thought we could finally build a mother-daughter relationship, 4 days before my birthday, my mum died. Since then every birthday had always been accompanied by great sadness, but especially anger: the old anger for the absence of my mother home, Rome, was now topped up by the anger for the definitive lack of my mother, and anger towards her, for not having been much mother before. However, almost always, my new family, and my friends, always succeeded in those few days in transforming my birthday. It is also true that I always obstinately chose to do exactly what I wanted on my birthday: if it couldn’t be Rome, then it would be the cinema, or watching Buffy all day, or going for a walk in the woods.

The people I have around me on my birthday, almost like a sacred ceremony, are always very carefully chosen. If New Year’s has the tendency, like weddings and funerals although less dramatically, to almost magically show us who we will bring with us into the new Year and who we won’t, on your birthday it really is your choice. You may not have all the people that were close to you on your birthday, of course, but you will have them in your head. And, similarly, you will have an idea in your head of those who will not help you start a new year, because they didn’t help you before, or perhaps they made finishing the past year more difficult.

And this leads me to a recent thought, to a dear friend who said I was harsh in judging others. I always do what i wish others would do with me, and I am grateful to those who tell me stuff about me, because if you don’t tell me how you you see me, it is much more difficult for me to see myself from the inside. And I thought about it, because I had never seen myself as such. As harsh in judging others.

I thought about it and I realised that I don’t judge anybody, as I am no judge. But in truth, as I am a very fragile person with a very flimsy grasp on life and on my sanity, and with an absolute necessity to survive for those I love, I am extremely critical about those who I keep near me. It’s not that i judge their behaviour as such, but I merely ask: does your presence in my life give me comfort, stability, happiness, joy? Or does it destabilise me, unsettle me, does it cause negative feelings and sensations? If the latter is true, I do not judge that person, but I will keep her or him away from me.

I believe this method could be applied to everyone: after all, if tomatoes are bad for you, you avoid them, right? Obviously with people it is a little more complex. More time might be required. You may need a way to weigh up the goods and the bads of the relationship on some scales: to compare what the person gives to you, and what he or she takes away. I do it every day, with everyone, and with with everything: I do it with my husband, with my friends, with my job. I am not a Libra for nothing! I don’t judge, I don’t say you are a bad or a good person in general. I might, if I care about you, tell you that I think that your behaviour will lead you to unhappiness or to happiness. But it is just my impression, and just as I would be happy for you to share that impression with me, for my own good, i share it with you. Then it’s up to you to either stay away from me if what I said you do not like or even, with my great surprise, it offends you. But it’s also up to me to say “You know what? Your presence in my life brings me more unhappiness than wellbeing. It is therefore best for me to stay away from you. At least until circumstances change.”

That is all.

There is no judgement. We all do what we need to in order to survive. I will not judge what you choose to do in order to survive. But if what you do makes it harder for me to do so, we need to stay away from one another.

Or if, on the other hand, your presence in my life makes it so much easier to survive, I will want you closer, and I will want to celebrate with you, because thanks to you I finished another year, and I get ready to start another, all brand new and filled with potential.