Anniversaries are kind of strange aren’t they? I’ve written before about how there always seems to be some kind of unconscious or perhaps cellular memory of anniversaries that the brain sometimes takes a while to catch up on. Why do I feel weird? Oh yeah, this time last year this thing was going on. I guess it must be all the environmental factors – the particular scent of a particular time of year, the particular light – that awaken the residual imprint.
Anniversaries, especially New Year’s Eve/January 1st, are invested with this special sort of superstition where we somehow believe the first day of a new year sets the tone for the following 364 days. I can’t quite let go of this idea, although there is clearly no evidence that it’s true. In the case of January 1st it’s especially depressing. The pressure to have the best NYE ever renders it an eternal disappointment, invariably New Year’s Day is spent in a hungover stupor, it’s pretty much impossible to drum up much enthusiasm for it anyway as it’s in the depths of winter, the post-Christmas lull, the dead week in which the world forgets how to do anything except shop and eat, and the general energy of Western civilisation feels like those barbaric mouse-traps that stick the poor blighters to the floor so they die a painful and protracted death.
The pressure on certain days to be ‘special’ absolutely fucks the chances that they actually will be. Too much is invested in the idea of their perfection, and the attendant disappointment is disproportionate. I very much fall victim to the symbolism and superstition of ‘important’ dates, and I set myself up for a fall in that respect. I like the ritual, I like to make things special, but hey sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes it’s just a gigantic bellyflop. But then sometimes you embark upon an ordinary, regulation day and it turns out to be magical. Out of nowhere, it’s perfect. I guess the key is to keep my eyes open for the unexpectedly special days and celebrate those rather than giving so much power to OMG A YEAR. It’s nice to have a milestone to give pause, to reflect upon past achievements and rethink future goals, to mentally summarise a period of time, consolidate it, back it up to disk as it were and then delete it from the hard drive to start afresh. Ok. But I can do that without making one particular day the day of all days. I’m sure I can.
On 4th January it was our anniversary, and I was disappointed because my partner wasn’t well and we couldn’t do any of the things we’d planned. I don’t know why I was so disproportionately, emotionally disappointed – I seem to have something of an issue with what is supposed to be special falling short of expectation, although I’m not sure where that comes from as although I remember feeling that way quite a lot in childhood, I don’t recall being frequently let down. Maybe it was just that I was constantly let down by my own expectations.
I had something of a catchphrase when I was little: ‘this is not what I expected’. I’ve never liked the idea of not knowing what was going to happen, so unconsciously I created a picture of what a certain situation was going to involve. What an item on a menu would look and taste like, what a place would be like, what I would do in any given scenario, etc. The problem is, especially if you’re a child and don’t have a full comprehension of how the world works, the picture is often wrong. It’s imaginary. This is why I often don’t like doing new things or putting myself in unfamiliar situations, even to the point of resisting watching new films, reading new books, going to new restaurants. I like to know what to expect. I like to know what the rules are and in a new place I have to learn a whole new set of practices. This is also why I don’t like travelling – although I desperately want to go away and experience foreign places, the fact they will come with different rules and different customs, the fact I will so obviously be an outsider where usually I would work incredibly hard to take in every detail of a new place to ensure that I fit in as seamlessly as possible, and most especially the fact that due to language barriers I will not be able to synthesise the way things work as quickly and will take longer to assimilate, fills me with intense anxiety.
I have to be feeling brave to put myself in a situation where I don’t know what to expect. I have to be feeling practically superhuman to put myself in one where I can’t even imagine what to expect because it’s so far beyond my frame of reference. I’m practicing, and I’m getting better, mostly, although it’s still mood-dependent, but perhaps this is where the feeling of being let down comes from. A continual disappointment of my expectations – not that they were lofty and everything fell short, just that so many things turned out to be ‘not what I expected’ and the very fact of this being the case was disappointing.
I guess this is why people think I’m a control freak. Because as I have become an adult and have more agency, I tend to try and control things so that I know what to expect and will not be surprised. Thus it’s very unsettling for me to have last-minute changes, when things don’t go according to plan, or when plans fall apart. I like to research things, organise them, and then be able to relax and enjoy them whilst doing them because I’ve prepared myself in advance. While other people might find that stressful and militant and find wafting around doing whatever they feel like on a whim a relaxing use of time, I find ‘let’s just see where the mood takes us’ kinds of arrangements distressing. I don’t know what mood to be in if I don’t know what we’re doing! I don’t know what to prepare myself for if I don’t know where we’re going! I won’t be able to come to any kind of decision about what I feel like doing when put on the spot and will go into some kind of autistic meltdown, internally or possibly externally depending on the situation, because the number of options is overwhelming.
Anyway, to get back to my original point, this is, I suppose, why I felt so disappointed about the anniversary arrangements falling apart. Half oh god this is the beginning of a new year for us and it’s all going wrong is this some kind of portent? And half general inability to cope with plans not co-operating with THE PLAN.
But, you know, so what? For one thing, how to you even decide when your anniversary actually is? When does a relationship ‘begin’? 4th January was our first date (although at the time it wasn’t intended to be one), and it lasted 27 hours, and neither of us were with anyone else from that point, so that was ‘the beginning’ I guess. But also we could call our anniversary the first time we had sex, or the day we had THE CONVERSATION, or the day one of us changed our relationship status on Facebook, or the day I told him I loved him, or the day he told me he loved me, or the day we promised to do everything in our power to make our relationship work, or the day we started making post-dated plans without the ‘if we’re still together’ caveat, or the day we started talking about our future as if it was a given that we would be sharing it, or the day we preceded statements with ‘when we’ rather than ‘if we’.
There are milestones every day. Every day is the start of a new year. Sure, some dates stick out, but does that really make them any more significant? I mean, in many ways the story began on June 7th 2012, which was the first time we saw each other, at a Dirty Three gig, although I didn’t know he was him at the time. This guy came and stood in front of me and I thought to myself ‘that guy looks like he might be hot’. I also thought ‘that guy is annoyingly taking pictures on his Blackberry’. I also thought ‘I swear that guy is about to talk to me’. But he never did.
And I would’ve forgotten about that guy probably, except that two days later a similar-looking guy followed and tweeted me with regards to the Dirty Three gig, about having seen me in the merch queue buying a tshirt. And I thought ‘that guy looks like the back of his head might look like that guy’s back-of-head that I saw at the Dirty Three gig, I wonder if it’s him?’. I didn’t follow him back, I think because from his feed it didn’t look like he tweeted much, but a few months later, when Dirty Three played London again, we struck up a conversation, I started following him, and through the medium of Twitter we discovered we had lots to talk about. Throughout December 2012 our conversations gained momentum and I suggested going for a drink. No ulterior motive really, although I had a sort of feeling about him, I just thought hey I have worse ways to spend my time than drinking and talking about music with someone who clearly has great taste in it. I suppose that feeling is what caused me to lay down my pride and reiterate this invitation three times before he consented and we eventually arranged our first ‘date’ on Christmas Day.
We met, and I discovered that he was indeed the owner of the back of that head, and I had a glass of wine, then several more, and talked a lot because of it, and thankfully he talked back, and there was an ease and comfortableness to it that made the time fly, and after a little while I confirmed my suspicions and decided that yes, he definitely was hot. We got so carried away talking that he missed his train, so I offered him my sofa, and yhe sofa turned into the bed – but it was all very chaste, reader, and no hanky-panky took place save a kiss the next day. We drank tea, we chatted more, we went for some dinner, and 27 hours after we first met, he went home, and, honestly, I would’ve liked him to stay longer.
From then on, that was it. There was a confusing second is-it-a-date? date but from that first meeting we didn’t have a day without texting and we never had a date where we didn’t arrange the next one. It just worked. Well, until I unleashed my crazy and things started getting dramatic, and then it started to involve work, but that’s the usual deal isn’t it? Easy at the beginning, then reality sets in. I’ve never had a relationship that way round before, but I gather that’s the standard order of play.
I like the story of how we met. It’s a good story. It feels kind of fated, especially as when I looked back I realised that I never even tweeted about the Dirty Three show we were at – I tweeted about dreaming that I was at a Dirty Three gig. All the coincidences that had to conspire in order for us to meet. In the context of that, it seems silly to place so much importance on one particular day when that day was both the culmination of many prior days and the precursor to many more.
That said, I do of course place importance on it. I just can’t help it. Like Valentine’s Day, which is clearly tosh but nonetheless exerts a grip upon me that I can’t wrestle free of. I like the occasions. I like having an excuse to be ridiculous and soppy and go overboard to demonstrate just how much I love someone. But I should probably remember that I show love every day in all kinds of ways and that isn’t going to be doubted just because I didn’t get to plan some day of wonder. On this occasion, I wrote a song – well, a ‘song’ – for him, using a poem I wrote back when we’d only been together for three weeks and sampling one of our favourite pieces, Gorecki’s 3rd symphony. It was a present, so it’s not for the ears of the interwebs, for which I’m sure the interwebs are very grateful, and I even spent time on it. Like, more than an hour. Even more startlingly, I actually quite like it. Sort of a crap present in a way – ‘hey, listen to my shitty song that I wrote in your honour!’ – but it’s the thought that counts… yes? The personal touch.. or something.
Anyway. All this excessive disappointment stuff is probably something to explore with my therapist. Yes, a new one. Yes, a highly peculiar fellow. But that’s for another time…
For now, in short, days are really just days, and it’s nice to have an excuse to make one particular day especially special, but that doesn’t make the other days any less important. I love my partner every day, I renew the promise to do everything I can to make our relationship work every day, I find some new depth of love every day, and some days it’s hard, and some days it’s easy, and some days it feels special, and some days it feels horrendous, because that’s what loving someone is like. It’s nice to observe the fact we’ve put 365 of them in a row together, but I need to get away from the idea that any particular day is any more indicative of what follows it than any other day.
2013 was a tempestuous and in many ways traumatic year. It brought great love, and also great pain. It brought me nose-to-nose with my crazy and reminded me just how much of it there is, and just how overwhelming, and just how destabilising. I feel like lots shifted in the emotional realm, my life underwent a complete turnaround basically overnight from being long-term single to being in a relationship, and that makes it feel like a lot has changed. I hope that in 2014 the emotional side of my life will settle down and that I’ll gain enough security and stability within myself to make some external changes. Mostly in the form of a new job and a new place to live. I’ve been in the same position for a long time now, and I’ve outgrown it, and I need to stop stagnating and move forward. So that’s my new year’s resolution, I suppose: forward movement. Personally, professionally, whatever other kinds of allys there are – make things happen.