The scent of time and love

I’m at my parent’s house, I couldn’t bring myself to go home to an empty apartment. I feel sad but at the same time happy and grateful for the moments we’ve shared together in real life, so far. When you are building a home together in a long distance relationship, it is impossible to take anything for granted. Time. Love. Life in general. A long distance relationship is a good reminder of how precious life is – how rare it is to find someone you can connect with on a deeper level – and how time can work both as a highway to common goals and as an invisible wall of limitations and restrictions.

I am thankful that I live in a part of the world – and in a time where time difference as a concept is merely a nuisance and not an impossible obstacle. We are always connected through chats, emails or Skype. It is possible to create an everyday life together through those channels, but of course it lacks many dimensions.

I’m thinking about the sheets in my bed. They still have his scent. My whole bed smells like him. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or if it will make me miss him even more. I don’t want to go home right now. What is home anyway? At the moment I’m not sure.

Outside, summer is making one last performance. Blue skies. Sunshine. Heat. But it doesn’t fool me – I can feel a new season comming. And with Johnny gone, I feel like there’s a new season waiting for me in my life as well. I’ve been so focused on our time together (and the involuntary foucus on all my health issues this summer) – now it’s time to go back to dealing with the restoration of my life. Reclaiming things. Explorations. Working on my self-empowerment. Finding a job. Getting back into the art world. Make more paintings. I have a lot to do.

But right now, I just want to go home to those sheets.

A crash course in “us”

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Things rarely happen the way you plan it, but the unexpected always brings something positive with it. This time with Johnny has been bittersweet – I wish I wasn’t so sick and it has made me feel trapped in my own body, in my apartment and in the passivity of waiting for my health to improve,  but it’s also been pretty perfect, because we’ve been spending so much time together talking – defining who we are as a couple, what we want to achieve with our connection and the direction in which we want to walk together. I’m not gonna lie, it’s been tough at times. We only have a couple of weeks to figure these things out, then he goes back to the States and it might be another year until we’ll get to build an everyday life together in the same place again. These weeks have been like a crash course in “us”

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Our honesty and directness are crucial – we can’t afford to be vague about who we are or what we want, we already have the language barrier, time differences and painful pasts we want to avoid revisiting. Our talks can be brutal at times because we challenge each other, in a positive way, to get to the realness of each other and cut through the layers of insecurities and imagined expectations that’s been forced on us by other people. It hurts to let go of fears by facing them. You’re bound to get your ass kicked by them before you’ll able to triumph and rise above. It hurts to get your comfort zone crushed. To let someone inside even though you are still healing a damaged, delicate heart. It’s confusing to let go of preconceived ideas of what you should be, do, say, or act – and instead just be and see what happens when you are showing your bare bones for the first time. Will you be able to move or will you fall apart?

But the brutal nature of honesty together with the smoothness of intimacy makes the relationship vibrate with life and energy – and there’s a clear sense of movement and progress and that gives me the biggest sensation of relief and satisfaction.

“You have to work hard for the things you want otherwise it’s not gonna be what you want but a compromise or something else and you’ll end up dissatisfied”, Johnny says. And it’s true. I’ve worked hard to achieve my dream of becoming an artist. Whenever I’ve had to compromise in my art I’ll end up losing my true artistic voice. I’ve worked hard to just be me without having to sacrifice or compromise who I am in order to fit into other people’s expectations of me which leads to depression or getting caught in traumatic places. So I understand the importance of the hard work. I just wish my mind wasn’t so full of little wounds, created by the traumas and the PTSD, it makes the hard work feel even more difficult and hard. My traumas are connected with love, intimacy and vulnerability. But that’s also where the magic happens in my art. That’s where I feel at home. Naturally it gets confusing at times. I need these deep talks with Johnny, otherwise I’d probably freak out and just give up when the trauma wounds are too sore or bleeding. But I’m lucky we share this open-hearted connection and that we both want to change and adapt to each other without losing our integrity. Change is hard work – building a home is hard work, but also so rewarding. I have been breaking free from my past for several years now, but now I’m actually breaking free from who I used to be in that past. I still don’t know exactly who I am when it comes to love and relationships – “great” Johnny says, “let’s find out together!”.

A master plan and how to destroy it

I never realized that the fear of my own past has created all these walls of protection. After nearly 20 years of being non stop in either destructive or dead relationships, I’ve become sensitive to so many things when it comes to relationships. It would be easier just to spend the rest of my life alone – without anyone by my side. It would be easier to isolate myself completely. I don’t fear loneliness – there’s nothing worse than the loneliness you feel in a dead relationship anyway. I always have my creativity. My art and writing will always be my company. I would live only by my own rules, my own expectations and fulfill my needs without making any sacrifices for anyone else. I would feel safe in my loneliness because there wouldn’t be anyone there to hurt me, to leave me or to destroy my sense of happiness. I would be lonely but free – and I could make art all the time. I would become a hermit genius who produces like 10 000 drawings a year. I would create an amazing legacy.

It is a tempting thought. Somehow like it’s a loophole – it would guarantee a pain free future. My life would be a trauma free zone. I would outsmart the unknown and create my own destiny – and the magic word would be ‘avoidance’.

But it’s only tempting for a minute.

I look over at Johnny while he’s not aware of my stare and for a second I’m a little annoyed. Who is this man who makes the avoidance seem like a bad idea – who challenges my idea of becoming a hermit genius artist and instead wants me to be in a relationship again even though I clearly suck at it? I could ask him to leave now, then I would pursuit my plan of loneliness and avoidance and it would be the last time I would be this close to a man ever again. I could ask him to stop loving me, because I am too damaged anyway. It must be hard to love me. I have my freak outs, my days of tears and sadness, moments of ugliness and darkness. What does he see in me anyway? Is he blind? Stupid? A masochist?

Suddenly he notices my stare and gives me a smile. Oh crap, don’t smile, don’t look so happy. It makes all these thoughts seem so delusional. I smile back. Great, now I’ve done it. Now it’s too late to ask him to leave. This happiness makes it feel impossible. I don’t like it. How can my magic word be ‘avoidance’ when I just want to explore everything in life with this man? What’s wrong with me?

He comes over to me, puts his arms around me and I suddenly forget about my plans of loneliness and solitude. He whispers in my ears: “I know you feel scared, I know you feel naked and vulnerable right now. I understand. But I don’t want to put you in another cage. You’ve known too many cages already. I want you to feel free. I want to make you happy. I never want to take from you, only add. This is the first time in your life where nobody is demanding something from you, more than to be yourself and it freaks you out. But I am here. I won’t leave. I am here.”

His words feel wonderful inside but they’re equally scary. Because the antidote to avoidance – is trust. And here it is – I either trust him or I can go on with my plan of avoiding everything he represents to me. Love. Pleasure. Happiness. Sharing. Or I can go for all those things and trust that everything will be alright. But all that comes without any guarantees. Without any walls of protection.

“Just be Mia”

My health is slowly improving and I’m beginning to enjoy my time with Johnny without feeling anxious about having to stay at home most of the time. I think in a couple of days, I will have recovered completely.

The good thing about being sick and forced to be at home has been the hours we have spent talking, caressing each other, getting to know each other in a more intimate way than we would’ve done if we had been busy doing things outside. I’ve learned a lot about myself these last few days. This is the very first relationship after all the bad ones – when I felt like I was playing the role of the ‘good girlfriend’ which was all about serving my boyfriends and sacrifice myself and my needs along the way. Now, I try to be myself and to be naked and real about what I want and need. It’s not always easy. I feel torn between being ‘the good girlfriend’ and myself sometimes – not because Johnny expects anything like that from me, but because that submissive behavior is so ingrained in my mind. I feel vulnerable in being myself without making sure that my lover is comfortable, satisfied or happy all the time.

But Johnny is constantly challenging me to kill the ‘good girlfriend’ act. He keeps exposing me when I try to serve him: “stop that – just be Mia”, he says. I feel safe with him – but very naked. Sometimes I don’t know what to do when I don’t need to serve a man’s needs. I feel a little lost but of course it’s liberating and gives me a sense of freedom. And whenever I fall back into my old behavior, he looks at me with a smile and says: “just be Mia”.

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But what is it – to just be Mia? I am not sure. I know how to be me when I am all by myself, but when I am in a relationship that doesn’t require anything more from me than to just be myself, I get a little lost. Because I’ve never really felt equal to anyone else, I don’t know my position in the relationship. That’s when I reach for Johnny’s hand – and it’s always there for me. We are slowly learning how to be ourselves with each other without losing anything, without making sacrifices in our needs and wants, without compromising away the essence of who we are.

Being sick has forced me to show my most naked sides. I have been too drained to be anything other than myself. It has been the perfect timing to figure out who I am when I am in a relationship. Like I am in the process of learning how to push through my old personas to let my own voice be heard for the first time, without being judged or humiliated. I am loved. For just being me. And every time I forget about it – Johnny is there to remind me to “just be Mia”.

I feel so lucky.

Post ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ – Reclaiming my history

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Me – reclaiming my own history

My life is slowly coming together in all areas. The things that used to be broken inside me, are healing, the dark memories are fading – and I am liberating everything that was ever suppressed or filled with shame and fear. Reclaiming my strength. I am not suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder anymore, even though it will always be there, but in the background. I’m going through a post ‘PTSD’ phase right now.

This is the first time in my adult life when I can enjoy my days without expecting abusive attacks, humiliation or painful neglect (including self neglect). I feel happy. Strong. At peace. Awakened. With that comes a new sense of clarity – and suddenly I see things from a completely new perspective. From a place of self-compassion and disillusion. But it’s not always a pleasant experience. It can be quite difficult at times.

I look at myself, the me I was back then – and I see so many strange and confusing things I had to put up with. Things like always being on the lookout for a possible betrayal just because I was so used to it. Little betrayals. Big ones. Traumas. And things like other people’s sick behavior that I transformed into my own shame and guilt. Like it was my fault they would behave like that in front of me. Now, I look at all that and I can’t even picture myself with those people anymore. Sharing my bed with them. Sharing their sperm. Blood. Life. Plans for the future. I can’t see myself laughing at their jokes and innuendoes like I did – stuff that was supposed to belittle- and humiliate me in an indirect way. The passive aggressive crap. I can’t imagine how I could allow anyone to ever spit in my face. Or drag me across the floor, holding me by my hair so that some hair would come out by the roots. The really aggressive crap.

To be called ‘cunt’. ‘Whore’ (by 4 different men in total). ‘Disgusting’. ‘Worthless piece of shit’. To be forced into the position of a victim. Or to have my orgasms being forced out of me because it was a turn on for him when he was feeling like he was in charge of my body. Power stuff. I hate that. My discomfort was his fetish. My sense of pleasure was not interesting to him. Or to a lot of the other men before him. Not important. And I wasn’t important. Just like I was a whore to some men, I was a fuck-doll to others. Or a punch bag. A dog.

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At times I felt like I was halfway to this sexually abusive style. What a nightmare.

I just can’t see myself in those types of situations anymore. It hurts so much when I look at myself from this new perspective. I feel very naked in front of myself and my own history. It has the ability to tear me apart at times. But I have decided to use everything to my advantage. I will reclaim every moment of humiliation and abuse – and turn it into something useful. A detail in a novel. A side note in a blog post. In a future lecture about overcoming trauma. And as part of my private mythology that I use in my art. I’ll squeeze the juice right out of it. If they wanted me to have all these painful experiences, I will turn it into magic because that’s what I do. That’s who I am.

The details of humiliation vary in dark tones and pain. But they are all mine. Like the awkward detail including one of these men who, before dinner (as a regular daily routine for a few months in the beginning of our relationship) would take out his semi-flaccid penis and put it on the edge of the dining table so it would look isolated from the rest of his body – and then he would make a hand gesture like it was saying ‘please… behold… and adore my pride and joy.. please…look – stare for all I care’ and with a smile on his face he would patiently wait for my reaction. In the bright light from the big lamp hanging above the table, he would also be in full display for any people who happened to pass by our windows – and for the family across the street (with two teenage sons) who were also having dinner at the same time every night and could see us just like I could see what was served on their plates. This is a confusing detail in my history of humiliation. But what the hell was it all about? What does it even mean? He seemed so proud of himself – even though his penis was flaccid and the situation was bizarre.

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With his dick next to the bowl of rice, I would cover my eyes and giggle like an embarrassed little school girl. Although it was so much more than an embarrassment. I was mortified. Humiliated. And I was suffocating, hoping the neighbors hadn’t seen the routine this night either. I lost my apetit. But I forced the food into my mouth after he’d zipped up. Like a good girl. Just like I zipped up after he had forced my orgasms. Perhaps it was his twisted idea of equality.

All the different versions of me

With old boyfriends, photos from 1999-2011
Since my [re]birthday earlier this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I used to be and all the different versions of me that I played like roles in my relationships, love affairs, at workplaces and in front of myself. I think I will create a collection of face masks, I want to explore this in my art as well as in this post.
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Self-portrait, 2011

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I don’t think I’ve fully understood until now, just how deeply we are influenced by other people’s visions of who they believe (or want) us to be. When we enter a new relationship, we also enter a new lifestyle – and a brand new self-image, mirrored through that lifestyle and the eyes of our lovers. We are upgraded in our latest understanding of love as well as our position in another person’s life. It’s a dangerous illusion of self-perception. We adjust our behavior to fit the perception. We feel like we are starting over. But are we? It’s been such hard work to redefine myself after the last break up, where I also broke up with everything I knew about myself and the world. It’s a different clean slate now than when I jumped directly from one toxic relationship into the next. It used to feel so new in the beginning of each relationship – but I was only numbing reality and adding more self-deception to myself. I wasn’t contemplating or allowing myself ask those important questions: “When I feel like I can be myself with this person – am I really being myself or am I being their perfect version of me?”, “Are we equals or am I submissive or in a strange position?”, “Is this really me or is this who I wish I could be?”
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I have been so many things to my old boyfriends and lovers. I used to be someone’s punching bag, someone’s mirror, dog, nurse, child, sister, nanny, whore, therapist, life coach, piece of furniture, toy and muse.
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Here is a collection of a few voice recordings which was part of an audio correspondence between me and a lover, a married man, in 2014. This is not who I am anymore – but it was who I once was. It fascinates me.
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They were all versions of me, but at the same time, none of them were me, not really. It is fascinating. It reminds me of the “self-portraits” of Cindy Sherman. I love her work and the way she’s exploring themes like identity and self-perception. She’s both the photographer and the subject matter but they’re not self-portraits. Even though the collection of these false self-portraits creates the most true self-portrait ever made. Identity is so much more than who we are on the inside. The metaphysical sense of self and the physical body can both separate and reconnect – match each other or be like strangers to one another. We can feel close to ourselves or lost. Weak or strong. Adrift or grounded. Like a winner or a loser. There is duality and unification. Inadequacy and perfection. We can be all that, but never at the same time. We are colored by the choices we make, the people we let inside our hearts and minds – and by the way we mirror ourselves in other people and in different contexts. We can be many things to both ourselves and to other people, but our core stays intact and will never change – and we forget about that sometimes. When we are lost in life or in ourselves, the journey back to the core may be long and painful, but it leads to enlightenment and gratitude. It’s hard to get lost after that kind of awakening. It has totally changed my life and the way I allow other people to add to my shape (but never reshape me). A very few people are allowed to be an influence of how I look at myself now. My core and my own eyes have helped me redefine who I really am – to myself alone. The rest is not important. I will always be a thousand different versions of myself to other people but it doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. It’s like that quote; “What other people think of you is none of your business”.
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Works by Cindy Sherman:
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From my diary in 2013:
“I am a starving lioness, I’m the headwind that slows everything down, I’m a tree that’s growing, I am an actor moaning, dying on stage, I’m the sun, I am the light, I am the beast who could tear you apart, I’m the sleeping beauty, a dying swan, I’m a porn star under your mattress, I am the secret you forgot, I’m the freak, a fragment that doesn’t fit anywhere,  I’m trash, I’m a glass of water someone spilled, I am a worm, I am the apple, I am the death and the shadow on your back, I’m magic, the moon and the planet you sit on when you’re lost, I’m the machine, I’m yours, I’m mine, I’m here, I’m gone, I’m the camera on the wall filming myself, I’m the cat with a hundred eyes, I’m the hole, a monster, I’m Lolita, I’m the girl in mirror, its surface and the nail it hangs on, I am a sin, and the hair in your lasagna, I’m alone, I’m the fire and ashes in your computer, I’m the neighbor that looks like a box, I’m a ventriloquist, I am the price you won at some point, I’m under, I’m over, I’m the scent of a tear, I’m a cloud, fickle and fragile, I am a roaring volcano, I’m almost done, I am dissolved, I’m everything outside myself, I am a thought, I’m an astronaut, I am the memory of a blonde, I’m a burn, I’m an electrical shock, a button, I am life.”

Emotional

The monthly invasion of excruciatingly intense hormones and anxiety has once again interrupted my process of self therapy. I feel all messed up – over emotional and numb at the same time. But in this break I am able to reflect on what I’m going through and to acknowledge the hard work I’m doing, which I’m usually taking for granted.

Spring is somehow leaking through the chilly winds outside my window. It’s still cold out but I can feel a change coming on. I feel just as restless as spring to unfold and blossom with everything I am.

Soon.

I am thinking about how I found love while looking for it in other places. I’m still so used to destructive relationships that I am having a hard time trusting all the wonderfulness of this love story. I’m learning how to accept love and to trust another person. It is almost as difficult as the process of my self-empowerment. Or perhaps it’s part of it. I feel extremely emotional as soon as I am thinking about him. We are quite different but we share many qualities, especially how we always filter life through our thoughts and hearts and allow details to be as significant as the whole. There is a sense of sensuality in that. We both experienced an interruption of innocence somewhere early in life, and we are slowly repairing it together in each other and in ourselves. We are like a scaffolding to each other’s heart, creating a support system so we can heal and grow. Like the crutches holding the characters together in Dali’s paintings.

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It is a beautiful love. Not harsh or indifferent like the ones in my past. It’s like we are growing up together, although we are already adults. I wonder what that will do to the passive Lolitas in my art.

Today, I will simply let the anxious hormones pass through me as if am a train station. All the emotions are warped and colored with high sensitivity and conflicting meanings. Tomorrow I hope I’ll wake up to be more in control of my inner activities.

Building an invisible house

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I made this image to illustrate my process of self-empowerment

I’m taking big steps in my self therapy – which I will refer to as ‘self-empowerment’ from now on. I am on a different journey now than during the years I lived with the PTSD where the cruel symptoms ruled my every day life.

During my abusive marriage, 2003

I might not be the smartest person in the world, I might not know much about anything really – but I am an expert when it comes to the process of losing the connection to oneself – and finding a way back. It’s been taking me about 15 years to accomplish that.

My old journey was to overcome PTSD and my new journey is all about reclaiming life and the power I lost to other people by accepting (and encouraging) a submissive position.

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2009

It all comes down to vulnerability. For a long period of time, I was trapped in various situations where it was forced on me from many directions. Vulnerability became the texture of my identity – and so also the visual expression of myself. I couldn’t see it. I was busy reliving trauma every day because of the PTSD (that I didn’t knew I suffered from at the time). But the vulnerability was the only thing I could offer men in relationships, I confused it for warmth and love – and so I attracted the narcissists, the aggressive ones, the assholes, the ‘strong silent’ men without any empathy – and the broken souls in denial with a tough exterior to overcompensate for their own vulnerability issues.

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2010

I payed the price for their repressed pain or for their lack of emotions – and I let them. I gave them my vulnerability as a currency so they could buy my loyalty, love and sexuality with it, over and over, without losing any of their own currency. I cared so much, they didn’t care at all. I risked my life for them, they neglected me and took no risks at all. I thought that love would either ‘make me or break me’ – they thought of me as a submissive addition to their lives which had no real influence on their hearts. Indifference is a perfect armor, it allows no emotional risks at all. I can’t relate to it  – it’s a blind spot for me. I was an easy target for their selfish conquests when it came to what my vulnerability was worth – and  how it was perceived. They were addicted to it – and it made me look weak so they could look stronger, better and smarter.

Therefore, the first step to self-empowerment is self-forgiveness. I have forgiven myself for being so careless with my vulnerability and for letting men do whatever they want with it.

And with self-acceptance – where I am accepting both my weaknesses – and seeing my vulnerability as something precious that I have to protect and maintain (which, ironically, makes it shrink) and my strengths and resources (where vulnerability is a great one if handled with care) – I have a good foundation for what I need to achieve success, happiness and self-fulfillment.

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2015

It’s not a random coincidence that my recent artworks all have houses in them – and that I registered my new website as “The House of Mia Makila”. I am slowly building an invisible house around myself – a protection of inner strength and an uncompromising integrity – an empowerment of everything I am – to myself and to the world.

Iceland (digital)

Iceland (digital)

About a different kind of starvation

Photo found on tumblr

I think it’s strange that when we talk about starvation, it’s always about the physical connection to food. But we rarely talk about how that nagging sensation of hunger, desperation and frustration can be felt in other places than in our tummies.

When we neglect our needs, we feel like something is missing – and it creates a void inside. Just like we feel when we are hungry for food. It’s a sneaky thing, the process of losing ourselves to the greyness of every day life routines,  compromises in relationships, shame, fear or any place where we can’t really feel free to be ourselves all the way. We adjust ourselves to the course of life and direction or stagnation of our ambitions. But it’s easy to overlook needs or desires when life feels like a train ride without any stops. It’s easy to lose the connection between mind and body or mind and soul, and that’s when we’re slowly creating a starvation somewhere inside. You can’t feel it happening until you are faced with the suction of the void. And the void is not talking. It’s confusing. Annoying. Frustrating. You don’t know what is missing. So you overcompensate with other things. You create renovation projects and home improvement, you have another baby, you put more hours into work, you shop or try to buy yourself free of the void – for the moment and there’s a sense of satisfaction but not the sensation of true fulfillment.

I’ve been starving for many things throughout my adult life and in various relationships. For intimacy. Sex. Intellectual stimulation. For artistic growth. Self acceptance. Closure. Friendship. Relief of shame and guilt. Genuine love. Pleasure. Happiness.

The starvation made me feel angry, bitter and depressed. I didn’t know why I felt that way so it left me feeling helpless and broken.

It wasn’t until I started to listen to my inner voice – my core – and began my journey in therapy that I could see how lost I was while I was overcompensating with the substitutions or the instant satisfaction that never lasted very long.

I am slowly approaching all of my starvations, trying to feed my needs or at least acknowledge them. It isn’t easy to stay true to who you really are in this time of age when we’re constantly being hacked by norms, social stress, mainstream ideals and pre- packaged lifestyles but it is possible.

You just need to create a little space for yourself where your thoughts and feelings can float through you without any judgements or shame. That’s all it takes to start filling the nagging void inside.

Slowly healing

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I wish everyone would be able to feel what I’m feeling right now. It’s something quite unique and spectacular. The vulnerable softness of scar tissue in my heart. The endless meadows of silence in my mind that used to be broken in so many places where chaos and fear were leaking out with every thought.

I am slowly healing. The wounds inside are fading and the entangled emotions are sorted out and accepted. I feel proud of myself to be here – in a place where I am able to feel stronger and more in control. I’ve been working so hard to get here. I feel lucky to have met a man who loves me for me, not for who I could be to him or who I should be if I only was a little more, or less than I already am. A man who doesn’t punish me for being a strong woman, for expressing my own wants and needs. I feel lucky to have met a man who doesn’t humiliate or belittle me to feel stronger, better and more in control. It shouldn’t be a privilege to experience this kind of equality and friendship in a relationship, it should be the foundation for all types of relationships, not only the romantic ones.