What gives you the right?

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The telephone rang and interrupted my first fitful efforts at sleeping.
‘You fucking bitch,’ he said. ‘You fucking bitch.’ His voice trailed off. Time slowed down. Is this a dream, I wondered? Is this a phone call in my sleep? In a minute I’ll wake up.
‘Everyone knows what you’ve been up to. Everyone knows but me. I’m the last to know.’
I found my voice, but the words were croaky.
‘What are you talking about?’ I knew what he was talking about but I wanted to deny it even as I knew it was true. I wanted to think it did not matter. I wanted him to think it did not matter that I had betrayed him.

I had slept with someone else. Slept with, such a euphemism. Had sex with, fucked, shagged, you name it in biblical terms. That I had gone off with another man while he was away for weeks on end.

Somehow he expected me to sit at home, the good and loving girlfriend, the good and loving partner, always faithful, irrespective of how he behaved.
‘I’m coming over now,’ he said. ‘I’ve got your stuff. You can have it back. I never want to see you again.’

The dial tone buzzed in my ear. I kept the phone close. I could not believe he had rung off. Soon he would be here. I dragged on my dressing gown. Good, I thought. He’ll be here soon. I’ll settle him down. I’ll soothe him. A few gentle words.

I heard his car pull up in the carport below. I looked through the blinds. He opened the car door and flung the books and clothes that I had left behind at his house as a mark of our relationship.

When we had separated three months earlier, we agreed on an amicable split. We agreed to go our separate ways, that we would each be free now to explore new relationships.

I pulled up the blinds and swung open the window. ‘Come up,’ I said. ‘Don’t just throw stuff. Come up and talk.’ He continued to throw more books, my old grey cardigan, my CD case, my sunglasses onto the pile. I kept my voice low. I did not want to wake the neighbours.

‘Please talk,’ I said again to the silent man whose arm moved up and down like a piston as he threw the last of my shoes onto the pile. He slammed his car door shut. He had not cut the engine. He reversed without looking up to see me.

That was how we left it. The end of the scene. The death of a relationship. Silence is the best revenge.

I have no trouble with the word ‘hate’ these days. It rolls off my tongue easily. I can tell someone that I hate someone else; even that I hate them as long as I also feel a fondness, a love for the one to whom I might direct the word hate, otherwise I can only talk about such hateful feelings behind someone’s back.

I can try to qualify my comments, when I am angry with my husband for instance, to say to him, I really hate it when you do that, not, I hate you when you do that, but the truth is, in that moment, I hate him.

I know well enough that it is a sign of confidence in her mother’s love when a child is able to say to her mother directly, ‘I hate you’. To know that her mother will tolerate such an expression and not retaliate or go under into shock and horror, or be destroyed by it because this mother recognises that her child says these words out of hurt or disappointment in the mother whom the child also loves.

It is not unusual to hear such utterances from three and four year olds, but as we get older it seems we learn to modify such outbursts. We learn, if we have gone to the right behavioural schools, to criticise the behaviour, not the person.

‘It’s not ‘you’ I hate, it’s what you do…when you get drunk, when you refuse to tidy your room, when you don’t pull your weight, when you carry on like that, when you’re slack, when you give up on yourself, when you stop caring about others, about me.’ It’s okay to hate these things, these behaviours, but to hate the person who does these things becomes a no-no.

It is important to distinguish the person from the behaviour and yet, the satisfaction that comes from really being able to say to someone or of someone, ‘I hate you’ knows no bounds. It gives great satisfaction, and yet almost immediately there is a wish to qualify it. I hate you when…

We throw around the word ‘love’ with such ease, but the word ‘hate’ we are wary of, for good reasons – all those wars, all that bloodshed.

Hatred is not something to spread, but it can be spread in subtle and secret ways and often even by people who purport to love and to care.

When I was at the Writer’s House, Peter Bishop urged me to write into my rage. Write into your rage he said, vomit onto the page.

Peter Bishop also says to write out of ‘doubts and loves’. Where do we put the hate? I wondered. Is not hate on a continuum with the love? The ones we love are the ones we hate, beginning with our parents.

When I first read William Gaddis’s words quote in the Sunday Age in an article by Don Watson I knew that these words were important for me.
‘The best writing worth reading comes like suicide from outrage or revenge.’

It is not the first time I have been in a creative hole as deep as this. It is not the first time that I have sat alone at my writing desk wishing for something to come to me, some thread, some thought, some feeling or image that I might follow, but it is no less painful. I ache all over with the refusal. My mind will not give it up. My mind will not let the words flow, will not let me arrive at some point where I can think, ah ha I have it. I know now what I am writing about. I know now what this book is about. I can proceed. I start again and again, so many false starts so many attempts to move beyond this desperate feeling of not knowing what I am doing.

And the audience whom I tried to send away only five minutes ago is back again, my parents and siblings in the front row alongside my conscience. They say to me again, in a chorus, what are you on about? We don’t want to know this. Tell us a story instead and make it good. Make it interesting.

But if I start to tell a story, I fear I will be in trouble with someone. That someone will tap me on the shoulder and say ‘What gives you the right?’

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90 Comments on What gives you the right?

  1. SY
    January 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm (6 years ago)

    what a beautiful post. For someone in a creative hole this is full of impact.

    When we write we pull from our on experiences, but who gives us the right?.. beautiful

    – SY

    Reply
  2. Jonas
    January 28, 2011 at 11:51 pm (6 years ago)

    Whoa!?! Is this fact or fiction? If fact, then at least two people are in a world o' hurt. If fiction? Powerful stuff. Scary stuff.

    Reply
  3. who
    January 29, 2011 at 12:15 am (6 years ago)

    Elisabeth, writing, especially in private journals you don't need any right or rite, to wright.

    Many countries, protect people and give them almost free reign to also publicly public anything they desire when using words to describe said "anything"

    but they are laws that prohibit words that the majority will view as what is known as slander.

    regardless of any laws and no matter what anybody says or threatens you with, I believe if you honestly believe in your heart, at the core of your being, that your are right to publish words that are opposed, then you are right. And if I were you I would not let anybody silence the words.

    when you know, I say fuck whatever anybody else says. And not just in regards to words and writing. I am talking about life and living. Do not let yourself be influenced to those who intentions may not be genuine.

    Reply
  4. kbear
    January 29, 2011 at 1:27 am (6 years ago)

    fiction or not..I like it!

    Reply
  5. Kath Lockett
    January 29, 2011 at 2:44 am (6 years ago)

    It's a tough one, especially when it comes to blog writing. There's a lot of honesty and pain out there that I'm willing to share but so much that I can't write about for fear of hurting other people. So, even in blogland which is often celebrated for its democracy and openness we still have to make decisions about what we'll reveal and what impacts it might have on others.

    Reply
  6. JeannetteLS
    January 29, 2011 at 3:11 am (6 years ago)

    My first writing teacher said, "Honey, your work is lovely. Beautiful. But who CARES about this woman? She's fine already. You have to write ugly, dear, really gut-wrenching, vomitously ugly."

    So I did, using Dickens' Quilp as my icon of disgusting. Of course, in that book, I figured she was so horrid, she should simply end herself. Short book.

    Our sensibilities don't allow us to all out loathe and hate and despise. As soon as we introduce a man or woman who is capable of outrageous acts, and does them… if she seems in other ways at all like the reader or like us, well, someone suspects the accusation or the confession. People assume. Writing is NOT safe. It is self-involved and, well, we're awfully conceited to think we should be offering our own little words for money… but the risk of losing people we love is real. And we have to hope that we CAN explain or that there will be some who read the book for the BOOK'S sake, not to see whether they can nail us on our flaws.

    You set me to thinking. I am not sure what your "hole" is.. your writing at the beginning was wholly compelling. I am hooked anyway. And the rest riveted my attention and is making me think about many things, really. EXCELLENT entry. I hope it moved you toward the work you want to do. And if I missed the points, well, I hope you feel good about the fact that your words inspired AND entertained. Both. Take care.

    Reply
  7. Windsmoke.
    January 29, 2011 at 5:36 am (6 years ago)

    Fact or fiction it's still betrayal of trust. Shows no commitment or respect towards the relationship.

    Reply
  8. Elizabeth
    January 29, 2011 at 6:03 am (6 years ago)

    Stick to it. You have a right to your story, your truth. Stick to it.

    Reply
  9. Zuzana
    January 29, 2011 at 7:41 am (6 years ago)

    Dear Elisabeth,
    I enjoy reading your posts on early Saturday mornings, when I can savour every word.
    Word. That is what hate is. It is a word we use in a moment of frustration or anger. It is what overcomes us when we are scared or anxious. But as it is with words, once they are pronounced and given birth too, either in a written or spoken form, they have power and can not be taken back.
    I am very passionate and as a woman I am ruled by my emotions, but my frustration is rarely directed towards those I love. Very rarely (if ever) have I told someone that I hate them – not into their face at least, for reasons above. I can think it at times and I can say it out loud when I am alone, but I know as soon as I do, I realize I hate no one – it is only an outburst of a moment.
    I can only love people. Those that I do not love, I am indifferent to and feel nothing towards and they do not occupy my thinking.
    As I grow older, I grow less angry. I harbour almost no negative feelings and if I am overcome by them, I channel them into creativity. As I know that life is short and I prefer living with no regrets, not even by wanting to take back the word *hate*.;)
    Have a great weekend dear Elisabeth and thank you for yet another thought provoking post.;)
    xoxo

    Reply
  10. R.H.
    January 29, 2011 at 10:55 am (6 years ago)

    Wooh!

    Steamy!

    (details please)

    Reply
  11. Jim Murdoch
    January 29, 2011 at 11:39 am (6 years ago)

    I’m not actually sure that ‘hate’ is a word I used an awful lot these days. I’m more likely to use a euphemism like, “I can’t stand such-and-such,” but ‘hate’ requires a certain level of commitment that I don’t find I feel up to these days. I suspect I lack passion. I have interest but no passion. (Carrie disagrees – she says I have very intense emotions.) I’m much the same with ‘love’ even though you did pick me up for using the word on Facebook recently. That actually embarrassed me because I knew after I’d written it that it wasn’t quite right but it seemed petty to say ‘really like’ so I let it slide. But back to ‘hate’. There are things I know I’m supposed to hate and there are things that men do to each other that upset me but I’ve never seen or heard of anything for years that has enraged me. I am capable of anger but I honestly think the last time I lost my temper was when my first wife and I fought over the phone over custody of our daughter so we’re talking twenty-eight years ago. Carrie has never seen me angry – grumpy, yes, constantly, but never angry – and I’m not sure that it’s possible to feel real ‘hate’ without it being preceded by anger.

    I asked Carrie just now what I hated and she said, “Cream,” which is true – can’t stand the stuff – but do I really hate cream? We just had a long talk about hate where Carrie said she believed that it’s not possible to truly hate someone you’ve not first loved so I asked her if she ever loved Hitler. She said she never knew him. She hates what he stands for, what he caused to happen but lacking a personal connection she’s not sure she hates him. We then started reading through Wikipedia:

    Descartes viewed hate as an awareness that something is bad combined with an urge to withdraw from it. Spinoza defined hate as a type of pain that is due to an external cause. Aristotle viewed hate as a desire for the annihilation of an object that is incurable by time. David Hume believed that hate is an irreducible feeling that is not definable at all. Freud defined hate as an ego state that wishes to destroy the source of its unhappiness.

    I don’t want to destroy cream but I do avoid it like the plague. I don’t tell my wife she can’t bring cream into the house or talk about cream. I just don’t like the stuff but I have no problems with other people liking the hell out of it if that’s what floats their boat.

    I’ve not thought enough about ‘hate’ to say whether I agree with any of the definitions offered above. Did your boyfriend (assuming this is factual) hate you or what you did? I was brought up to distinguish between the two: hate the sin, not the sinner. This is, of course, where I started to realise I had a problem with my religion because I didn’t feel any hatred for either fornicators or fornication.

    Pain generally comes from an external source – external to one’s brain – and so I can’t control when my legs are going to hurt or someone is going to chuck a rock at me in the street. Hate, on the other hand, is completely internalised and not everyone will feel hatred for the same things or to the same degree. Some will go on marches with banners and other will shrug and switch channels. On the whole I’m not good at hating on principle, it needs to be personal; it’s clearly though something I don’t like to experience and shy away from.

    Reply
  12. Steve E
    January 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm (6 years ago)

    Elisabeth! Thank you for visiting my blog, even though I am a non-writer (unschooled).

    I totally agree with the first four words of your 'profile' You are RIGHT. You are WRITER!

    I liked reading you. Aside from that it can be a learning experience. So I thank you and "I'll be Bach"! (Is the punchline of a musicians' joke.)

    PS. LOVE IT, that your sidebar Peeps are listed in reverse alphabet-order…Several of my most-enjoyed Peeps are listed. FAVORITE of mine is "Ces and her Dishes"!

    PEACE!

    Reply
  13. steven
    January 29, 2011 at 2:55 pm (6 years ago)

    elisabeth – your ability to express your experience of the conditions of your life is astonishing to me.
    i've never known hatred. it's been entirely absent from my existence. i've known anger, i've known dislike, i've even known the edge of abhorence but not hate. steven

    Reply
  14. rraine
    January 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm (6 years ago)

    i've been sick for a few days, and i posted on facebook that i hate being sick. a more accurate statement would have been that being sick scares me, unacknowledged fear turns into anger, and if sufficiently provoked, gets labeled as hating the event. this very neatly puts the hate outside of me, as if it were real, and somehow justified, when it is neither.

    Reply
  15. Two Tigers
    January 29, 2011 at 6:36 pm (6 years ago)

    Fine post, E. I'm sure the comments will reverberate for days and days on this one. I have always wondered why, when someone is about to do you a world of hurt, they say "please don't hate me," as if they can be at peace with their cruelty only if they know there isn't someone out there hating them for everything they are, and not just one thing they have done. I wonder too if I am hated by anyone, for the hateful thing I have done, that this is all I am to them, that one defining act, when I am and can be so much more. Because I have plenty of people out there I could reduce to the act that was hateful, and yet, I can separate that out somehow, with time. I don't want them around, but I don't hate them. My mind is open enough to contain the contradictions, perhaps to my detriment. I don't forget, and I don't forgive, completely. But I do have that lingering fondness for the person that you speak of, alongside total rejection of what they've done as in any way ever being "okay." So complex! Thanks so much for broaching these tricky topics. You do have the right, as long as you write this well!

    Reply
  16. Robert the Skeptic
    January 29, 2011 at 8:31 pm (6 years ago)

    I can probably count on one hand the number of people I could truly say I have come to "hate" in my life. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

    Betrayal of trust is high on the motives for creating such animosity, though.

    Reply
  17. Kirk Jusko
    January 29, 2011 at 10:05 pm (6 years ago)

    Like some others who've commented, I probably use the the phrase "I can't stand so-and-so" more than "I hate so-and-so", probably as a way of asserting my own maturity, but, semantics aside, the underlining emotion is the same.

    I read so much on the Internet by writers who want to deny or dicourage the existence of negative emotions like hate or anger, as if such emotions are a conscious decision. It's whether or not we ACT on such negative emotions that's conscious.

    Hey, as long as I'm not killing anybody, right?

    Reply
  18. angryparsnip
    January 30, 2011 at 12:50 am (6 years ago)

    The fact that you live gives you the right but compassion gives you ability to understand that right doesn't always mean you should.

    cheers, parsnip

    Reply
  19. Ms. Moon
    January 30, 2011 at 1:59 am (6 years ago)

    What gives you the right? The fact that it is your story. Nothing else matters.

    Reply
  20. Anthony Duce
    January 30, 2011 at 2:20 am (6 years ago)

    I enjoyed your post. I always do. Bringing up negative subjects, to be truthful yet address at the same time the feelings of those you write about. I struggle with this too. There aren’t any right answers. I wish there were.

    Reply
  21. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 7:09 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for your generous comment Sy. The question is rhetorical, as you suggest. Who indeed gives us the right?

    Reply
  22. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 7:11 am (6 years ago)

    Ancient hurts from the so-called real world, which through the process of memory turn into fiction, Jonas.

    Thanks for your observation. The hurts can often inspire us to write.

    Reply
  23. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 7:15 am (6 years ago)

    I agree Who, there is a big difference between slander, libel and
    the right/need to speak and to write.

    It is important to be sensitive to people's feelings when we write, but we must be careful not to let such sensitivities overwhelm us, otherwise we might not write at all. Censorship can be dangerous, as much as it is necessary in some situations.

    Thanks, Who.

    Reply
  24. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 7:15 am (6 years ago)

    I'm glad you like it KBear. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Reply
  25. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 7:17 am (6 years ago)

    I agree Kath, even in the democratic ease of blogland, there are restrictions on what we can write, more than I think many people realise. It's part of the art, to my way of thinking. Good writing is rarely an anything goes…

    Reply
  26. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 7:23 am (6 years ago)

    I tend to play around with multiple ideas in my blog, Jeanette, as you may have noticed. I am preoccupied with ideas about writing, as much as I appreciate the writing and ethical concerns fascinate me too, which is why I raise them.

    For some people it seems it's almost a sin to hate, and yet I suspect – semantics aside – we are all capable of 'hateful' feelings at times.

    We have to learn to deal with such feelings, hopefully in helpful and constructive ways, otherwise dreadful things can happen.

    Thanks, Jeanette.

    Reply
  27. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 7:26 am (6 years ago)

    In absolute terms your right, Windsmoke, a violation of trust, but most situations are complex.

    I don't think anyone has the 'right' to hurt another person, but sometimes we do so inadvertently, through ignorance, insensitivity, and sometimes downright carelessness. I don't try to justify it, at least not consciously, more I try to understand.

    Thanks, Windsmoke.

    Reply
  28. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 7:28 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks, Elizabeth. I agree with you about our right to our own stories, but it's tough when our stories contradict other people's stories. How do we reconcile the differences? It's not easy.
    Thanks, Elizabeth.

    Reply
  29. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 7:41 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks, Zuzana. It is helpful if you can to take such a positive approach as yours, for as you say life is short. when you say that the people whom you feel negative towards are those you ignore, I suppose it's an effective way of dealing with such feelings.

    I recognise this is a difficult and challenging post in some ways so I'm especially grateful that you persevered with it, given your antipathy towards such strong negative emotions as conveyed in that one word 'hate'.

    Thanks again, Zuzana.

    Reply
  30. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 7:43 am (6 years ago)

    Part of the art lies in giving just enough detail, RH – Jane Austen style. Leave things to the reader's imagination.

    Thanks, Robert.

    Reply
  31. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 8:01 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks, Jim. You've certainly put a lot into this comment and I'm grateful. I haven't seen those definitions before. It's fascinating to me how different thinkers and theorists define the notion of hate in such diverse ways.

    My interest, as you know, lies in the desire for revenge and the degree to which I observe a tit for tat tendency in all of us, which I connect with hateful feelings, hurt feelings and the like.

    Part of my determination to tackle the notion of hatred has to do with my early upbringing in the Catholic church where I think now, the emphasis was not so much on the avoidance of hatred, as on denying its existence.

    I find this problematic. Turning the other cheek can also become a sort of masochistic self hatred – getting the other person to hit you, as it were, instead of dealing with their anger with you in more effective ways.

    I don't know you, Jim, except through your writing but I expect that Carrie is accurate about your sensitivity. In fact I'd punt that most writers are deeply sensitive, hence the urge to write and to communicate through the written word.

    What's it about cream that puts you off so much? Mother's milk, thickened?

    I have a sister in law who developed Rickets as a baby because her mother fed her cream instead of milk. Some foods can be too rich. I, too, dislike cream, but not to the degree you describe. I loved it though as a child.

    Thanks again, Jim.

    Reply
  32. R.H.
    January 30, 2011 at 8:23 am (6 years ago)

    What art? What imagination?

    Who reads Jane Austen? Old maids in woollen socks.

    Come on, spill the beans.

    Be interesting!

    Reply
  33. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 8:31 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for your kind words,Steve E. The fact of being unschooled does not make you a non-writer.

    I believe the thing that defines writers essentially is that 'writers write'.

    The quality, the popularity, the relevance and cultural significance of the writing may differ across the board, but essentially, that's the truth of it, 'writers write'.

    It's good to see you here. Thanks, Steve

    Reply
  34. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 8:34 am (6 years ago)

    Again Steven, I'm inclined to think we may be arguing here over semantics. Real hatred, the sort you describe, the sort you never exoerience, the stuff that can lead to murder, is not the hate I'm interested in. It's destructive.

    I'm far more concerned with things which you might describe as 'anger, dislike' or the 'edge of abhorrence'.

    Thanks, Steven.

    Reply
  35. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 8:38 am (6 years ago)

    I'd agree, rraine, unacknowledged fear can turn into hatred as can the experience of extreme abuse that leads to a fear that cannot be articulated because it might lead the abused one to feel too vulnerable to survive.

    Lots of things must fire up this feeling of hatred and it can be different for different people. We have varying thresholds for pain and for emotion, I suspect.

    Thanks, rraine.

    Reply
  36. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 8:43 am (6 years ago)

    I'm intrigued by thoughts like these too, Two tigers. The sense you describe that we often have an aversion to being hated.

    On the other hand, there are some people who for a variety of reasons seem to provoke hatred towards themselves from others. People who pick fights, for instance. Or people who've been so badly abused that they cannot allow themselves to be loved and experience hurt as the only worthwhile currency in relationships and therefore they seek it out.

    There are so many layers to the so-called negative emotions that comprise aspects of hate and hatefulness, that it's simplistic I think to reduce any of this to one thing.

    Thanks, Two Tigers.

    Reply
  37. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 8:46 am (6 years ago)

    At least you can acknowledge some sense of feeling hateful though only on very rare occasions, Robert. Most of us can't. It's too shameful or painful or distant from our experience.

    I agree betrayal of trust can be a powerful stimulus to hatred. What's that saying? :Hell hath no fury greater than a woman scorned.

    Reply
  38. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 8:58 am (6 years ago)

    Like you. Kirk, I'm less likely to admit to hatred outright and instead use such softening expressions as 'I can't stand it… when you…

    And yes, I agree there seems to be an effort in the Internet generally to deny hatred, at least in the blogs I read. Though I also understand the Internet is full of hateful sites where people can be down right cruel and malicious. Often I suspect they're unaware of it. Often when people feel wounded they also feel justified in their hatred. When some one feels justified, the danger is they believe it's okay for them to behave badly, maybe even worse than the ones who have offended them, the ones they hate.

    Herein lies the danger of the old 'eye for an eye'. People risk upping the ante. The abused person becomes the abusers.

    For this reason I think it generally helps to know about our so-called negative feelings, to think about them and to find someway of working them through. Otherwise, if they are denied they tend to slip out in ways that the perpetrator may not notice but the ones on the receiving end do.

    Thanks, Kirk.

    Reply
  39. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 8:59 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks, Laoch. There are plenty of pseudonyms for the word 'hate', if that's what you mean.

    Reply
  40. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 9:03 am (6 years ago)

    Compassion has to be the best way to go, Parsnip, a compassion that runs both ways, both towards others and also towards yourself, so that when others abuse you, you do not allow yourself to be further abused, but can stand up for yourself and likewise stand up for others who are bullied or hurt.

    But we must be careful not to become vigilantes or to let the punishment exceed the crime.

    So many layers of complexity here, Parsnip, and I agree, compassion is fundamental.

    Thanks, Parsnip.

    Reply
  41. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 9:04 am (6 years ago)

    Our stories matter, Ms moon, yours and mine and everyone else's. Thanks for the endorsement.

    Reply
  42. Elisabeth
    January 30, 2011 at 9:05 am (6 years ago)

    It would be dull indeed, if there were right answers, Anthony, however much we might crave them.

    thanks.

    Reply
  43. Jim Murdoch
    January 30, 2011 at 10:30 am (6 years ago)

    Revenge is another issue entirely, a need to equalise things. I’m reminded of the scripture, “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will recompense’, saith the Lord.” (I always preferred ‘recompense’ to ‘repay’.) Of course we’re instructed “Never to pay back evil for evil” and I can’t say that I’ve ever felt a strong need to get people back for things they’ve done to me. I do want to avoid them and I think that was the one thing that I was uncomfortable with when my first wife left me, the fact that in order to see my daughter I had to continue seeing my ex-wife: every time I saw her I felt I was getting slapped in the face again. Is hate proactive or reactive? I cut my finger a couple of days ago and it still hurts. My wife left me twenty-eight years ago and it still hurts. Is that the same as saying that I still hate her after twenty-eight years? I don’t think it is. I didn’t hate her then. But I did feel hurt, rejected for no good reason (and I think that hurt even more) because all she would say to me was “I don’t know what I want but I know I don’t want you” and that would hurt anyone.

    As for cream I have no idea where my dislike comes from but there are a lot of creamy things I don’t like. I don’t take butter on my bread, I never eat desserts like custard, but the worse thing in the world is rice pudding especially hot – the smell alone makes me retch. Porridge comes a close second. I do eat yoghurt though as long as it’s cold but I was in my twenties before I tried one. I dislike touching medicated creams but since they’re more oily in texture I can tolerate the feeling but in general I don’t like to get in touch with my food. If I were to eat a pizza (which I would do if it wasn’t topped with gooey, melted cheese) I’d use a knife and fork.

    Reply
  44. A Cuban In London
    January 30, 2011 at 11:20 am (6 years ago)

    Had I not just had a cup of strong coffee, your post would have sufficed to wake me up. It oozes an intensity that's always been there in your previous columns, but which, now, is coming to the foreground.

    I'm wary of the word 'hate', but for linguistic reasons, rather than emotional reasons. In Spanish, to say 'Te odio' (I hate you) is a statement of such strength that you'll probably not want to talk to that person ever again.

    Cracking post.

    Greetings from London.

    Reply
  45. Eryl
    January 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm (6 years ago)

    What gives you the right to tell your own story as honestly as possible? What gives anyone the right to silence you?

    Reply
  46. R.H.
    January 30, 2011 at 8:07 pm (6 years ago)

    Excuse me but how come Jim gets a seven paragraph reply from you and my last comment scores nothing?

    What's going on?

    Hell, it's not like I'm the only voyeur in the whole world who wants a Mills and Boon peep through your curtains!

    -Robert!!!!!!!!!!!
    Yale.

    Reply
  47. Marja
    January 30, 2011 at 9:47 pm (6 years ago)

    no signs of writers block here I would rather say this is a highlight of writing. Fantastic. Yes I think hate and love are on one side of the coin, on the opposite side is disinterest, carelessness. The latter is a bigger sign of not loving than hate. The person you hate or hates you is so much affected emotionally becasue they care.
    When my kids say I hate you not long after they alwasy offer me a hug or a cup of tea. Little things to make up. Great that you learned to express this side as many of us are afraid to confess these feelings.

    Reply
  48. Elisabeth
    January 31, 2011 at 10:08 am (6 years ago)

    I thought about you as I ate my yoghurt this morning, Jim. Was it cold enough? I agree that many creamy concoctions are revolting when eaten warm. I'm partial to the icy cold of ice cream.

    As for the business of hate and hurt. I think they're linked. We often feel hateful feelings when we get hurt, whether towards ourselves or towards the other.

    You can see this process at work in a cartoon by the Australian artist/writer Michael Leunig. In 1994 he published a cartoon called ‘Thoughts of a baby lying in a child care centre’.

    Leunig’s cartoon consists of six frames in which a baby lies swaddled in a crèche. The baby’s thoughts reflect Leunig’s fantasy of what it might be like to be such a baby, alone and helpless.

    The baby reflects on his mother’s absence, the sense of shock and disbelief that his mother has abandoned him here in this place. The word bubble above the baby's head reads: 'My own mother- who I want to be with more than anyone one else in the world. She has left me here.'

    The baby's imagined thoughts swing from the briefest hint that his mother is cruel for leaving him here in this crèche. How could she do it? But no sooner does the baby entertain the thought than the baby begins in turn to idealise her, his beautiful wonderful mother. How could anyone think ill of her? 'No it must be his fault.' He the baby, he the failure, he the cause of his mother's absence.

    In the final frame the thought bubble above the baby's head reads words to the effect: 'I'm a jerk. I must be. She's left me. It can't be her. It must be me.'

    There was a huge outcry here after the cartoon came out. All these mothers feeling attacked for leaving their babies in childcare centres.

    Leunig argued at the time that he was only trying to imagine the infant's experience – imagine it because we can never know – we can only surmise.

    To me this is the stuff whence hatred begins, a sense of abandonment,among other pains experienced often unwittingly in our mother's arms or away from them.

    Thanks again, Jim.

    Reply
  49. Elisabeth
    January 31, 2011 at 10:12 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks, Cuban. You're right of course to be wary of the word 'hate'. In print it looks different. I suppose in word when spoken, a lot depends on the tone adopted.

    I'm glad it woke you up, that is assuming you wanted to be. I take it as a compliment. No one wants their writing to put people to sleep.

    Reply
  50. Elisabeth
    January 31, 2011 at 10:14 am (6 years ago)

    Eryl, thanks for permission to speak in those two rhetorical questions. What gives any of us the right to speak? What gives anyone the right to silence another? They're different sides of the same coin.

    Reply
  51. Elisabeth
    January 31, 2011 at 10:21 am (6 years ago)

    Robert, I'm usually slow to respond to comments. Give me a day or so before you assume I haven't heard you.

    I have to pace myself here. If you noticed Jim's comment, it was a fairly lengthy one, not that I measure out my responses word for word but I try to respond appropriately.

    Your comments to me require a jocular response. Short and to the point. I dare not take you too seriously, but if you'd like me to do so, then scroll back here to my last response to Jim's second comment and find a more serious response that also applies to you. It may not appeal to you, but it applies to all of us.

    Again though I suspect you want a witty response. I'm not into the gratuitous. I try to add a level of depth. I don't always succeed but I try.

    Thanks again, Robert.

    Reply
  52. Elisabeth
    January 31, 2011 at 10:38 am (6 years ago)

    You get my meaning, Marja, clearly when you talk of love and hate as opposite sides of the same coin. They are connected as far as I can see on a continuum.

    It doesn't surprise me to hear then that after your kids have given you a hard time with their words they try to compensate with kindly gestures. It balances things out, redresses what feels to be a wrong. How else would our children ever separate from us if they could not feel critical of us from time to time.

    Thanks, Marja.

    Reply
  53. R.H.
    January 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm (6 years ago)

    Well I don't want to seem picky, but there you go again: ten paragraphs for Jim, and he's even splashing around in your yoghurt. Well if you don't mind me saying, I can be as wordy anyone, and I don't need a beard, and to sit in a huge chair holding a can of fly spray to look intelligent.
    My image is plain, simple; what you see is what you're stuck with.

    You're all depth. That's no good for you. And tiring for everyone in the end.
    What's the point of it? Most people's lives, celebrities included, are unremarkable. Celebrities need to become drug addicts for instance, or boozers, so hyped biographies can be written (and filmed) about them which aren't totally boring.
    There isn't anyone who hasn't had trouble growing up, that's just how it is. But middle-class angst makes a mountain of it. The David Williamson/Helen Garner style is a speciality, just for them: highbrow discussion in living rooms which is really about bedrooms. Good heavens! thirty year-old women on their 800th hairdo confronting some dope called "Jake" about him being in a cafe with some dope called Jasmine. Utter rubbish. Really. At least Garner had the attention-getting idea of calling a fuck a fuck. It got her sacked by the education department and so it should have. She's just Mills and Boon, but Aussie style, backyard dunny and flyscreen door.
    Horror does happen, my word yes, kids see their parents murdered, right here in lovely Melbourne, most liveable city in the world.

    My concern is for animals, that's my depth. People don't need my help, they've got a language.

    Reply
  54. Dutchbaby
    January 31, 2011 at 9:45 pm (6 years ago)

    This vignette is a powerful way to begin the discussion on the word hate. Though I agree that the word ought to be used sparingly, political correctness has all but expunged the word from mainstream communications. Good for you for opening this discussion.

    Reply
  55. Phoenix
    January 31, 2011 at 10:12 pm (6 years ago)

    My dear Elisabeth – what an amazing post. I loved it, and I always love your writing, and your thoughts. So let me put this out to you:

    How many blogs do you want to write for? Because right now there's at least two: one for you, and the one you write for everyone else. May I kindly suggest that two blogs is even harder work than one? It's the same with lives – how many lives are we living? One is hard enough… let's not make it any more complicated than that.

    I think we hesitate to assign hate and rage to people, and stick to qualities instead, because it's so easy to think "That person isn't being the best version of themselves." So we split the two in our mind because people fail, in horribly epic ways, every day, but it does us (and them) little good to say that's a direct representation of the person.

    It's much easier to take the times a person is their best and assign those to their personality than take their failures and do the same thing. As we wouldn't want others to do any different to us, I've found it's helpful to examine rage and hate as momentary and unreflective of someone's true identity.

    But you're right in that these things, not matter how temporary they are, still are important enough to be expressed in our creativity and our lives, if only to expel them from our hearts and minds. 🙂

    Reply
  56. Snowbrush
    February 1, 2011 at 4:19 am (6 years ago)

    If he didn't break things off cleanly, he didn't drag out the agony either, and I respect him for that. He didn't play games; he didn't beat around the bush; he didn't stalk you or beat you up. He just said what he meant, and he stuck by it. All things considered, I think he handled it pretty well.

    You know, I've done what you did, and I've done it many a time.

    When I wrote about the things I hate, you were the first of a few to suggest that I also write about things I love, so I did.

    Reply
  57. Snowbrush
    February 1, 2011 at 4:23 am (6 years ago)

    P.S. "Peter Bishop urged me to write into my rage. Write into your rage he said, vomit onto the page."

    I don't think I've ever done that–or even wanted to. I always write with the assumption that someone is going to read it, and I don't want to waste their time. Of course, some people might say that I waste it despite myself.

    Reply
  58. Elisabeth
    February 1, 2011 at 8:15 am (6 years ago)

    You can be as wordy as the next one RH, I can see, so why bother competing with the likes of Jim? Unless of course you're stirring the pot.

    It's fine to introduce a touch of humour along the way, Robert, but it's not my forte.

    There's a saying, write about what you know. I try to do that, and therefore my repertoire is limited.

    Helen Garner has moved a long way since she wrote Monkey Grip, but it was a good start, at least the book seems to have appealed to a large number of readers. Let's not envy her her success. She writes beautifully, however much you may not appreciate the content.

    I'm not much into theatre and therefore I can't comment on David Williamson's work, but he too seems to have tapped into something meaningful among readers.

    Readers may not be in your milieu, apart from yourself, Robert. And unfortunately the underdog is not often represented in the written word, except through those who've moved beyond it.

    You seem to straddle these two worlds Robert. And again I say to you, why not start up your own blog? Travel incognito. Don't identify yourself as RH. Have a taste of what it's like to be a blogger and receive comments, instead of simply being the one who comments. You might find you enjoy it.

    Thanks again, Robert.

    Reply
  59. Elisabeth
    February 1, 2011 at 8:17 am (6 years ago)

    Political correctness has much to answer for, Dutchbaby. It's so easy to be intimidated for daring to speak about certain unacceptable matters. Political correctness can become censorship and is equally dangerous. Thanks, Dutchbaby.

    Reply
  60. Elisabeth
    February 1, 2011 at 9:53 am (6 years ago)

    For one who seems young to me, Phoenix, you always impress me with your wisdom, as if you carry an old head on those beautiful shoulders.

    You are right to reflect on the degree to which we can become overwhelmed when we try to write not only for ourselves but for an audience as broad and diverse as exists in the blogosphere.

    I'll try again to bear this in mind, even as I continue to feel the need from time to time to reflect on our negative emotions that can best be mitigated by other feelings and thoughts.

    No one person to me is all bad, no more than any one person is all good. Thanks, Tracey.

    Reply
  61. Elisabeth
    February 1, 2011 at 9:57 am (6 years ago)

    Snow, to give Peter bishop credit, as much as he urged me to write into my rage, he did not suggest that the end product would be suitable for publication. It was more a way of getting the rage out of my system I suspect and for writing practice.

    I agree with your perception of the boyfriend. In retrospect he handled it well.

    I shall travel back now and check out on the things you love.

    Thanks, Snowbrush.

    Reply
  62. Annotated Margins
    February 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm (6 years ago)

    I am enjoying these latest posts, so rich and riveted with emotion. Don't judge, just think it, write it, and move on. You're not responsible for what others think. That's their own problem. Your problem is to simply get the words on the page, and you're doing that well enough.

    Reply
  63. Snowbrush
    February 1, 2011 at 5:45 pm (6 years ago)

    "he did not suggest that the end product would be suitable for publication"

    Yes, I understood that. I just meant to say that I would never write in such a way. Whether doing so is therapeutic, I'm not sure. Some think it is, and others think it just drives the pain deeper. Years ago I was involved in peer counseling. People who do that are encouraged to emote intensely, and doing so did feel awfully good, but I came to realize that it didn't seem to help participants in the long run, and I would suspect that emoting that way on paper might not either. Yet, much of what I do on my blog is in that direction, and I feel certain that I wouldn't handle life as well as I do if I didn't put my heart into my writing.

    Reply
  64. Rachel Cotterill
    February 1, 2011 at 8:27 pm (6 years ago)

    I don't 'do' hate. When I love someone I love them for years (more often, forever) so I would struggle with the idea of hatred being a more transitory phenomenon if it is on the same scale. And I simply don't have the energy or the inclination for sustained hatred. Occasional outbursts of anger? Of course. But not hate.

    Reply
  65. R.H.
    February 1, 2011 at 10:18 pm (6 years ago)

    Well that's sure telling me. And mighty fine for you, sitting up there in posh Camberwell.
    With your opportunities I'd be a professor by now, an academic, sociologist -in other words, a GOURMET! But I wasn't that lucky, and after all, someone has to wash the dishes.
    Williamson and Miss Garner do a job. That's all. I could try kissy-kissy stories too, because I know they sell. Maybe you could write a fuck book yourself. I won't because I'd shoot myself, like if I watched TV every night, or did the cafe thing, or started a blog. I could go incognito but what's the use, they'd know it's me. You could do the same and I'd know it's you.
    You can't brighten up, how unfortunate. You won't get anywhere. Williamson tries humour. Corny stuff. Garner does little. I don't envy them. I laugh at their efforts, that's all. It's Australian writing, not worth much. Manual workers don't go to the theatre of course, or read very much, so it's all middle-brow stuff, unless it gets filmed: actors dashing about in their undies.
    I don't think what you know matters one bit, it's the way you present it. The PC are in trouble there, they can't stop people laughing. Or going to church. But smoking is their horror. In Santa Monica one night I saw a bloke in a closed shop. The lights were blazing and he was at the centre of the floor, leaning back in a chair with his feet up, smoking a big cigar. He wanted everyone to see him: “To hell with you all.”

    That's style, presentation, humour, vulgarity, my childhood love of America.

    Reply
  66. Enchanted Oak
    February 2, 2011 at 8:02 am (6 years ago)

    Zounds! Elisabeth, you do excite things in the midst of your funk. Nice work.

    Reply
  67. hpicasso
    February 2, 2011 at 11:28 am (6 years ago)

    I have never hated that which I never Loved

    Peace, hp

    Reply
  68. Noxalio
    February 3, 2011 at 3:15 am (6 years ago)

    Elisabeth, as always, thought provoking and highly enjoyable to read (no, you're not really in a funk but i suppose if you think you are, then you are – but the fact that you post here is encouraging / or should be) …

    regarding license to write the stories you are compelled to, hmmm … there are other forms than the straight-up narrative (Kafkaesque novellas? and other indirect works, no? compact poems?) but if that's not your 'thing' then you just plod forward and tell the stories you are compelled to regardless of the demands of the audience – and if perchance you connect, then bravo. otherwise, go on to the next story and tell it – for ou have a unique approach, you do …

    it's a kin to photography, if for some reason i stop shooting even for a week then i invariably find myself on a veritable toboggan careening downhill and the climb back becoms excruciatingly difficult – so, i shoot the mundane, even if i never show any of it, the process seems to matter even more that the subject or the product. i don't know why this is … it is exactly the same with poetry, for me.

    i look forward to your next post (as i do, to each and every one of them – even if i don't comment – you see, long-form, for me is agony)

    noxy

    PS. the Word Verification word is 'cothed' – what a word, eh? verb or noun? ha ha

    Reply
  69. Elisabeth
    February 3, 2011 at 9:45 am (6 years ago)

    Every so often someone else comes along who writes about the importance of just getting on with the writing, Mike. It comes as a relief to me, haunted as I am by the tribe of naysayers in my head. Thanks.

    Reply
  70. Elisabeth
    February 3, 2011 at 9:54 am (6 years ago)

    I suspect simply 'emoting' onto the page is not enough, as you suggest, Snow. We need more.

    The aim in life as far as I can see, is to integrate emotions and feelings. Neither one nor the other needs dominate. Even as I write into my rage, I qualify my emotions – my 'vomit' – with thoughts about it. Otherwise it becomes purely therapeutic or runs the risk of being a complete waste of time.

    Thanks again, Snow.

    Reply
  71. Elisabeth
    February 3, 2011 at 9:56 am (6 years ago)

    Rachel, despite this post, I'm not big on hatred either. It goes against my grain, but as a fleeting experience and one that can affect other feelings, I cannot help but acknowledge its existence. I'm gad for you though that it's not such a huge feature in your thinking. It can be very painful.

    Thanks, Rachel.

    Reply
  72. Elisabeth
    February 3, 2011 at 10:00 am (6 years ago)

    Don't worry about starting a blog, RH. If it doesn't feel right for you, don't do it, but please forgive others who try.

    Blogging like all writing is an ambivalent medium. How often have you heard bloggers
    question why it is they blog.

    There has to be something in it, but at times I wonder what that is. Thanks again, RH.

    Reply
  73. Elisabeth
    February 3, 2011 at 10:01 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks Enchanted Oak. There's nothing like a funk to get the creative juices flowing.

    Reply
  74. Elisabeth
    February 3, 2011 at 10:03 am (6 years ago)

    Wonderful coment HPicasso, and my thought exactly. Love and hate go together, hence the dynamite.

    And it's lovely to see you here. Thanks.

    Reply
  75. Elisabeth
    February 3, 2011 at 10:08 am (6 years ago)

    I'm sorry about the long form, Nox. I don't mean to, but I can't help myself. I have so much to say, so much to write and to me the more the merrier, but I know many people, especially in the blogosphere prefer it short and sweet.

    I should have been born in another era, in the days of long hand written letters that were designed to offer comfort on achingly cold winter evenings and when the written word became one's only and preferred company.

    Thanks, Nox. It's good to know you come by. I see your footsteps even without a note left at the door.

    Reply
  76. Se'lah
    February 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm (6 years ago)

    a great piece of writing!!! loving your artistic talents, E. one love.

    Reply
  77. Kass
    February 3, 2011 at 11:30 pm (6 years ago)

    I like most styles of writing, but I prefer strong, opinionated writing most. Even if I don't agree with the justification for the emotion, I like being stirred into thought, challenged by the rawness. I think you do a great job in that department.

    Reply
  78. KleinsteMotte
    February 4, 2011 at 4:52 am (6 years ago)

    Okay this one got lots of attention, great comments. You hit a nerve. That's clearly the best any writer can wish for. Keep on doing what feels good for you.

    Reply
  79. R.H.
    February 4, 2011 at 6:49 am (6 years ago)

    Sometimes I think about people who've booted me off their blogs and I have a laugh, I don't hate them at all. Blogging is a marvel, I'd never put it down, I owe it too much.

    Reply
  80. Reader Wil
    February 4, 2011 at 12:46 pm (6 years ago)

    Good writing, Elisabeth. Hate is in Dutch a very strong word. I always try to use another expression, like "ik vind het niet prettig"or "I don't like it".

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, I remember "De Ramp" very well, for all students had to help clear the rubbish and clean houses. I worked for a week in Zierikzee, cleaning houses.It was my first international workcamp and I liked it so much that I decided to join workcamps as long as I was a student.

    Reply
  81. Antares Cryptos
    February 5, 2011 at 3:57 am (6 years ago)

    Elisabeth-thank you for visiting. I'm catching up and will be back to read.

    Thought I'd let you know, I left a message on behalf of Laoch in his comment section, since he's still cut off, if you want to leave him a comment, I'll pass it on later tonight.

    Reply
  82. Elisabeth
    February 5, 2011 at 8:25 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for the kind words here, SeLah. It's a comfort to think there are talents here worth noting.

    Reply
  83. Elisabeth
    February 5, 2011 at 8:28 am (6 years ago)

    I don't try to stir actively Kass though I can see that it happens. As you say strong opinions usually attract a response in favour or against, and hopefully some in between.

    Thanks, Kass.

    Reply
  84. Elisabeth
    February 5, 2011 at 10:22 am (6 years ago)

    Hitting a nerve is one thing, Kleinstemotte, but meaningful dialogue is another.

    Dialogue matters as much if not more, otherwise nerves might stay jangled while understanding lags behind.

    Thanks, Kleinsemotte.

    Reply
  85. Elisabeth
    February 5, 2011 at 10:24 am (6 years ago)

    I'm glad you don't hate the people who've ejected you, RH. Many others would.

    Ejection/rejection is the worst, though you seem to court it.

    Thanks again RH.

    Reply
  86. Elisabeth
    February 5, 2011 at 10:26 am (6 years ago)

    We've had our own minor version of 'de ramp' this weekend, Reader, but at least for us we've managed to stay clear of real flood waters. Thanks Reader.

    Reply
  87. Elisabeth
    February 5, 2011 at 10:43 am (6 years ago)

    Antares, I've tried now to send two messages to you via your blog and one to Laoch. I don't know why, but they seem to disappear into the ether.

    Thanks for your comment here and please, if you can, send a message to Laoch : I'm thinking of him in his snow bound condition.

    Weather is such an unpredictable and powerful beast. Thanks, Antares.

    Reply
  88. R.H.
    February 5, 2011 at 11:37 am (6 years ago)

    oh well how could I get upset, I'm tickled by the displays of indignation: icy women of forty plus, born again feminists. They pray for fools like me to arrive.

    Reply
  89. Stafford Ray
    February 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm (6 years ago)

    'I hate you' closes the door. 'hate what you did' leaves a bruised foot holding it ajar.
    If that is true, can I be confident that my hate of Brussels sprouts will assure I will never see them again?!

    Reply

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