This blog has very much been inspired by the song ‘Visceral Science’ by Mark Wilkinson. I chose his words to act as gatekeeper for this piece, and as you listen I am sure you will understand. Australia has found within Mark a raw and beautiful new talent.
From this piece I hope that you too will learn to love visceral, and not science.
These words are inspired by my thoughts, my emotions, the nightmares of others and perhaps of myself. I will never tell.
Visceral is a lot more beautiful.
1) Relating to the viscera. The visceral nervous system
2) Relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect.
It’s 50/50. Heads or Tails. Truth or Dare. Black or white, day or night. A flip of the coin, a hovering hand between a queen of hearts, left or right. Really, it isn’t so difficult to choose. Ah but that’s the rub, The Road Not Taken lamented by you and Frost alike.
Go left and a life of pitted words.
Right remains but a possibility, unlikely all the same.
You get to choose.
So why is it so hard to get it right?
It is not death that we fear, despite all that we tell ourselves. It isn’t the pain in those winding final moments, nor is it the unspoken farewells. It isn’t the pain we leave behind, nor our tremendous relief at those we needn’t bring along. No, it isn’t death that we fear.
It’s oblivion. I am no Augustus Waters, confidence and Cancer beaming from his chest in equal measure. Of course, it sounds a little more wonderful when bellowed from a fictitious dying teenager, swooned over by the healthy and beautiful, full with breasts and plait. It sounds a whole lot less beautiful when from the lips of a 22 year old nobody, disease real and love not.
But the sentiments remain the same; it is oblivion we fear the most. A forever of unknowns, flailing hopelessly in purgatory for the moans to God on a Sunday between the sheets of a new and experienced lover. Do the crime, do the time. Only, when the time is forever, it becomes a bigger ask.
No one tells you what to fear though, when oblivion comes first. Oblivion and I were already well acquainted, and if friends were to prod with raised eyebrows and greedy grins we would confess that we were taking things slow. The truth is, oblivion and I never took it slow.
I was thrust into its lap and told to dance.
What is oblivion? It is nothingness. And I was nothing in all her finery.
One after the other, apologetically I dragged them into my life; Almost all tall, dark and handsome. Some were lovely, in the way that young boys can be. They held my hand and together we swayed awkwardly at our first dances. I pushed them away before they had the chance, and each shared the same stinging, downcast look in their eyes. I know that you, the reader, will judge me harshly. But don’t you understand? No one can leave if you are the one to do the leaving.
I convinced myself of all that society reminded me every moment. I was not beautiful, nor was I sexy. I was not worthy, nor was I wanted. I was but a small breasted burden, and I should at least have the decency to display gratitude to all those who were subjected to my company. We all have our crosses to bear. And one by one I allowed myself to be nailed to them, spluttering apologies.
When I met him, people told me they were happy for me. And they were, of course. I allowed their sentences to remain unfinished. It was easier that way.
I’m so happy that someone will be with you.
Finally, I was finding my way out of the oblivion. I was finding my way from nothingness to something-ness.
Together, we were visceral. His lips made love to my scarred and jaded belly, and I never felt so beautiful. The fact I had coated myself in tan didn’t matter. It made the medicine a little easier to swallow for him this way.
We looked at homes, and sourced showers from which he could see me from the bedroom. It was better to be safe than sorry after all. Shyly I mentioned my dream blue boarded home, complete with Vegetable patch and cottage flowers. Now I was embarrassed. Girls wanted those things, not women. Besides, how would I tend to the flowers? Yes, it was silly to have considered such a thing.
I awoke to fitting hips and blood pooling in my mouth. It was not a good day. I reached for the quilt, and was bought back to my senses. Why wasn’t I reaching for my runners? I had no right to not keep him company as he prepared for the day. I apologised profusely. Just in case my lesson was not yet learnt, he reminded me.
No one else will want someone like you.
It happened so fast, and yet so slowly. There is an old folklore story, and though the exact wording fails me at this hour, I must tell you; I need you to understand. Place a frog in boiling water and it will jump out. Place it in a cold pot and slowly turn up the heat, and it will boil to death.
I was yet another frog stupid enough to believe they would one day be someone’s princess. I never wanted to be a princess; I just wanted to be not too much, and yet enough. A real life Goldilocks.If you were to reach for a scalpel and slice my body along the side, from top to toe, you would see. You would see visceral. Leaking valves and tired organs, grated joints and hollowed bones. Autosomal Dominance and a guarantee of continual failure until one day, I once again find myself in oblivion.
This is what past loves have seen. The lakes that I will never run, the children I may never bear, the life I will never lead, the chemicals I will swallow and the sobs in the shower when I think no one is listening. More importantly, this is what I have allowed them to see.
When it came to lovers, I did not believe that I was anything but my cellular failures. I allowed society to convince me that I was nothing but cracked collagen, a bare faced burden. Most of all, I convinced myself. I had successfully submerged myself into the oblivion that is a lack of worth. I listened not to the accolades of my colleagues and peers, nor to the smiles from my mentees, not even the red high distinctions scribbled across paper after paper. Instead I made a conscious choice to listen to the voices that further echoed my own, and mistook support for confirmation of proof that I could not, and would not, be loved.
And then came the crack that crept across the floor. When I left him, I was both heart broken and rib broken. My physio gasped. ‘What happened to your rib?’.
I sobbed so hard I broke a rib.
The funny thing about cracks is that something will always grow in turn, to fill the gap.
And in that crack, I chose deep love over intellect.
I began to love myself viscerally.
It was tentative at first; ten minute snippets of meditation a day. Tea drunk in silence while I curled up in a window and pretended I had another 8 lives up my sleeve. Lipstick chosen to impress no one but myself. The pace quickened and I realised things were getting serious. I dragged textbooks to my grave on the bathroom floor, vomit and Freud becoming synonymous, not because I enjoyed it, but because I knew I deserved that coveted Honors position. The hours spent on the train watching people, and smiling in the knowledge that they were watching me. Long letters written to a beautiful stranger, penned by hand, simply so that I could sleep with the knowledge that my words made imprints upon paper.
One day as a friend enveloped me in their arms excitedly at University it dawned upon my cheeks. I had stopped trying to get other people to love me. And in doing so, I had learnt to love myself.
Viscerally, I will continue to break, to bleed, to collapse and to vomit until one day I find myself in a new kind of oblivion.
But viscerally? I no longer need to remind myself that I am enough, and yet not too much. I needn’t encourage myself to believe that I am worth it, nor that I deserve it. I do not lie awake at night wondering if I will ever be loved, and I do not carry myself through the world trying to get them to love me anymore.
Because viscerally, I have made my choice. And I no longer need to worry myself that anyone would choose the former.
It’s not so hard to choose visceral over science after all.