In Chapter 14, I gave you my answer about why I would choose one loaf of bread. I stated that I would if certain conditions were met, namely if the mate met me half-way in creating the new model of monogamy.
However, yesterday, a mischievous mentor asked me a very meaningful question. He asked me if this book was the best that it could be. The first thing that sprang to mind was that it was in dire need of a professional edit. But then I realised that there was one chapter that needed a major rework. The chapter that held my answer was not authentic. And so, he challenged me to dig deep and write from a felt sense of what is real for me, rather than regurgitate a response formed from repressed role-models.
I had been grappling with this for a while, mostly discouraged by the lack of disrespect that it showed my Aunt. I knew one day I would have to try again to reveal my truth, and not let it get smothered by the fear of being ‘found out’.
So, my apologies for wasting your time with my previous tirade.
Here is, if you are interested, my real response.
With my warmest regards,
Letter to Aunty Dot
Dear Aunty Dot,
I have no idea where your beautiful spirit may be right now. If there really is a disastrous dichotomy of heaven and hell, then I suspect you may be sitting in the middle somewhere in purgatory. Because while you showered people with love, you also enjoyed a little mischief. I can see this in your eyes today as I look back on your photos. I get a sense that there was far too much fun to be had in this world to allow yourself to be limited by a few meaningless moral standards. Besides, you spent your entire life on this planet straddled between the expectations of others and the desires of your heart. Sitting in the middle space is familiar, and no doubt you are surrounded by many who are benefitting from your compassion to ease their confusion.
However, if reincarnation is real, then I may be blessed with you beside me each day. Could you be in the longing gaze of one of our pets? If so, I think it would have to be the avid adventurer Archie, who finds every little fault in the fencing to find freedom. He brings such happiness to those he meets on his journeys, honestly interested in them and so joyous to be around them. He has the ability to make people feel special and shine a light on their spirits. Or could you be the cat cuddled up on the end of my bed. So comfortable with stillness, space and silence. She surely mimics your independence and your inclination for curiosity. If so, it must be a kind of heaven for you to feel the desire for connection and have that need cared for. And then in between, play, explore and rest in your own companionship. What a beautiful balance.
Sometimes though I think I see your spark in my daughter’s sassy style, and woven into her wicked wit. Even if your actual soul is not captured within, your essence is ingrained. For, Aunty Dot, you influenced me more than you may ever know. You taught me to enjoy pleasure, rather than to fear it. This was empowering. You taught me to challenge convention, especially when it did not sit with my own truth. This instilled courage. You taught me that despite the confines of the context, maintaining a relationship with our wild and wacky nature keeps you sane. This was wisdom. I can only hope that I am honouring you in passing these things on to the girls that I have been graced with.
Now, speaking of honouring you, I must finally address the question you asked me those many decades ago. Why would I have one loaf of bread when I can have the whole bakery? I fear my previous answer was not fully my own. Re-reading it I can see that it was geared towards not ruffling feathers in my family. It was fractured by the fear of being found out; of providing proof of my fallibility. So, I am here now to finally give you the respect you deserve, my truth. And I deeply apologise for the delay in this, and my previous attempt to deceive you, or more importantly myself. I know though that you would not take this personally, for you too grew up knowing the value of being guarded.
And so….my answer.
Honestly, I do not know if I can choose just one loaf of bread.
Aunty Dot, I long for an intimate connection; to know someone fully and have them feel free in my care. I yearn to feel so secure that my heart can open and I can invite another in. I do want another to value and validate, and have them do this for me. I would love one other to see the real me, and to adore all of its light and shadows. It would be so wonderful to have an additional decision-maker, one that had my best interests at heart. I crave to make another person feel special, to provide smiles and solace, and to snuggle up with. I am desperate to explore another and find what excites them, physically, intellectually and spiritually.
And there is part of me that wants one loaf of bread to show off as evidence of my worth. I do wonder if other people are wondering about and judging my solitary presence at events. Do they view my lack of a public partner as some sign of deficiency? I know this is none of my business, and yet the discomfort sits within. I am confident enough now though to not have the opinions of others drive my choice into coupledom. So, I can rule out convention as a determinant behind my choice to have one loaf of bread. I cannot, however, be so quick to eradicate the notion that my ego would very much enjoy the exhibition!
So, in short, the rationale to have a sexually-exclusive relationship are evident. And I would happily hold one loaf of bread if this pane came with equal power and peace. However, after many years of retreat, and experimental expeditions, I know that I find neither in partnership.
Because beyond superficiality, I do not feel safe secured to just one other. The reasons are due to my own neurosis, and yet while may be remedied, are real. I liken this situation to art. Once you have a benefactor, or have your work commissioned, it is compromised. Suddenly you have someone else’s preferences to consider. Now you have someone else to please. It takes an incredibly evolved and brave soul to resist this pressure and to make truly authentic art. I am neither that evolved nor brave.
Through my life I have been taught that those nearest to me are a source of judgement. My personality was pathologised, and when I stray from the path of perfection, I become a problem. And those I grew up with did not want or need any more problems. I know it is sad, and yet it was inevitable that I came to associate close connection with concession. I knew I could not trust those around me with my truth. To do so would invite wrath and ridicule.
This fear was formed over my foundational years, and continues to this day. While I have made progress in making the walls more visible, they still sit as a barrier to any sense of belonging. No matter how genuine, how generous and how gentle another may be, there will always be the little girl inside feeling awkward. There will always be the younger me yearning to open up, but sensing that she is only being lured out of the shell to be suffocated, smashed and then shoved back in another very ill-fitting one. There was a reason I spent much of my childhood talking to trees and nestled in novels. They seemed to acknowledge, accept and appreciate me for who I was, not who they wanted me to be.
And so, I openly say to any future figurative focaccia, I will never trust you fully. Of course, I will honour any attempt to minimise my mandate of mistrust. But I surely don’t need any peaceful warrior who takes this shit personally. And I certainly don’t want a callous crusader who considers my circumstance a challenge to be conquered. All of me is staying well within my walls. I have isolated to maintain the integrity of my individuality. You are welcome to enjoy all I am comfortable to let out for the day, but don’t go searching for more. The doors will definitely be slammed shut.
I know there will some who are reading this and consider my approach simply selfish. It denies someone the chance to become truly intimate, which is the cornerstone of rewarding relationships. To this I say…Yeh…duh! That’s the point right! If you put your hand on a stove and burn it badly, you won’t do it a second time, will you? And even if you bring your hand close again, you are bound to remember the pain of the first burn. My lack of trust is an adaptation born from many brutal experiences. It is not going away any time soon, so I suspect it is better to just be honest about the situation. The alternative is to add it to my pile of secrets to become a source of shock. I am trying to declutter the amount of self-deception in my dresser, so this one is on its way to the op shop.
Others may be asking why I don’t invest more time trying to fix this. I subscribe to the adage that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Yes, there are many times I am lonely, that I long for a confidant, a companion, a master and a muse. But I also really love being with myself. All of those little gems I keep hidden away are a constant source of amusement and joy. They make for a terrific tea-party in my alone time. There is a world within me that I have come to trust totally, and for me, right now, that is most important.
This lack of inherent and intimate trust of others also means that a single person is unlikely to ever be enough to sustain me. I am comfortable sharing snippets of myself, but sooner or later each shred must be seen. Following this logic then, I must find other people to share sections with. It makes perfect sense to me. As the custodian of a wardrobe full of contrasting clothes, it is my duty to allow each its day out. And so, I will seek a colour-match for even the murkiest of materials. Some may see the conventional cosy cream cardigan, others the paisley patterns and hippie hues. Some may perceive the power pant-suit, while others may get to view the velvets of a vixen.
Variety is the spice of life, and I have found with this strategy all of my colours are shown, allowed to run free, and still feel safe. You may question why I cannot find this freedom in the innocent field of friends. Let’s get real. I really do enjoy physical pleasure far too much to restrict interactions to merely the platonic. I can admire from afar and appreciate beauty wherever it is found. But I also find touch a terrific source of inspiration. This does not mean I am ‘easy’, but an excited and willing explorer if the conditions are right.
The conditions are never conducive where I am confined to be a concubine, or meant to behave like a mistress. I will not be a means for another’s self-medication or tool for their own trauma treatment. I will not play second fiddle to someone’s security blanket. Secrets were fun in the school yard days where games were the goal. Inclusion is the only path forward to any form of integrity. If you cannot allow me into your world, then don’t ask to be a part of mine. Your insecurity will only inflame my own, and there will be no benefit arising from this blaze.
Of course, there are consequences for every choice, and with this strategy I sacrifice the ability to be known completely. However, it is an outcome that I rest comfortably with, and which at this time requires no risk mitigation. There is also the public perception of promiscuity. Again, this is none of my business. Living my truth, and allowing light into all parts of my wild and wacky world is more crucial than cowering in darkness. Other people’s judgements are merely a reflection of what is important for them. I am happy that they have been able to find a sense of certainty in this crazy world.
I know too Aunty Dot, that you will not be judging me for the admission that I am just not a ‘one loaf’ kind of girl. You will not view my inability to feign fidelity as a failure. But I know others may. It is a sign of success in this world to secure a partner, and to be loved by them for life. To be wed makes you worthy. To be faithful to another makes you a fine example of humanity.
I have decided that I will be faithful, but only to my quest of self-exploration and discovery. I will not shape-shift into the square that is societal success, which when slips only creates a shroud of shame. I will give myself the space of the whole bakery within which to roam. However, this adventure does have boundaries. I hereby commit to honour and respect each encounter. I will cherish every ciabatta, delight in every donut, care for each croissant and love each loaf. Despite how long or short the sharing may be, each connection deserves compassion.
For me, each of these experiences is not just a solution to numb the pain of hunger. It is generous gift to nourish my needs. I will not permit myself greed or gluttony that inevitably is followed by the nausea of guilt. I believe the bakery is not a delight in which to binge, but a blessing with which I can bring forth my version of love.
So, Aunty Dot, I choose the whole bakery.
I thank you Aunty Dot. Not only for the original question that beget these contemplations, but for the incessant voice in my consciousness that compelled me to reconsider my initial answer.
I am not a perfect person, partner, daughter, sister or mother. I am a product of my past. My mission now though is to wrap all those wounds up with love, to soothe the scars, to own the story and move on with humility.
And yes, if you are wondering, writing these words has removed a great weight from my shoulders.