Q: How? How can I be merciful with myself?
A: Take long baths. Read more. Eat good food. Apologize to yourself for all the years of self-medicated abuse. Sleep in. Go out. Unless you don’t want to. Then stay inside watching bad TV and not feeling guilty at all. Mollycoddle your heart. Mollycoddle your emotions. Weep with wild abandon. Think about those things that happened that hurt you ‘til you were sore inside. Think about them for as long as you need to and then put them away. You are only human, friend. Which, despite my saying ‘only’ is an awful lot to be. You are allowed to make mistakes. You are allowed to have bad days. And good days. And days you are cruel and cold and detached. And days you want to braid daisies into the hair of strangers. You are allowed to hate yourself. But god, what if you didn’t?
Q: How do you stop loving someone who can never love you back?
A: You stop by stopping. You do it slowly. You force yourself out of their company. You create distance. You release memories. You are iron in your resolve. You shut the door on them. You shut every door, every entry. You avoid contact. You consider the relationship retrospectively, and you realize you deserve more. And sometimes, none of this works. Sometimes, you keep loving them. God, do you keep loving them.
But you love yourself more. You do what’s best for you. You choose to be loved, not only to be the one loving. And you wait. For someone or something else to engulf you.
Q: How does one get rid of fear?
A: One confronts it and it loses its power.
Q: How do you define your sexuality, personally?
A: I gravitate towards pansexuality, but if I really had to describe it, and had the liberty to take my time, I’d say:
I like people. I am attracted by the way people treat me. If you treat me with kindness, care, delicacy – I will probably be attracted to you. Of course there are physical attributes that get my hands sweaty (dark hair, heavy eyebrows, mouth like the ribbon on a Christmas present), but most of my sexual attractions stem from my emotional attachment to a person. Which explains why I have become enamored by petite girls who wear red lips and vintage dresses and forty year old stout women with grey cropped hair alike. Pale boys with self-assured voices and those handsome people who do not like to adhere to the male/female binary. Why I’ve found myself clutching at the hips of a writer and the shoulders of a computer scientist at different points in time. I like people that interest me. I like passionate people. I like people that talk with their hands and kiss with all their trembling bodies. I like people that understand me and people who make the effort to, even if they never will. I like quiet people, pensive people, hopeful people, sad people, lonely people, lovely people, love-me people, LOVE-ME people. I like anyone that takes the time to consider me, to reach out, to reach in. I like people that remember me against the odds. People that remember themselves, in the midst of the dozen personas we all switch between on any given day, I like people that remember who they are at the centre. I like people that want what I want, which is mostly to love and be loved back in equal measure, which is a lot of people, which is sincere and beautiful and oh so very human.
Q: I am going on my first ever date on Saturday, to dinner, and I’ve been reading your poems in the hope that I can be a woman like you.
A: Don’t be a woman like me, love. Be a woman like you.
Q: I have a scar on my body I was born with and it means I am too embarrassed to be unclothed in front of men. It’s the only reason I’m still a virgin. It makes me ache.
A: Believe me, if you are standing completely naked in front of someone who really likes you, they will not even be seeing your scar. They will only be wondering where to put their hands first.
Q: I love a man. But I feel so delicate that I’m sure he would rip me if we were to pursue a relationship. What do I do?
A: Give your bones more credit.
Q: I want to die and I don’t know what to do.
A: Stay away from sharp things and wet roads.
Donna-Marie Riley currently resides in the South West of England. She is author of the poetry collection Love and Other Small Wars, published by Words Dance, and also featured in Between Sentiment and Sensation: Vol I, published by Red Paint Hill. She romanticizes cold coffee and bitten nails and she likes her poetry shaken, not stirred.