“I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use — silence, exile, and cunning.”
– James Joyce
While I love the idea of shedding what no longer serves you, I’m not a fan of being an asshole in the process. Silence, exile and cunning were an intricate part of James’ abuse. I would say the exile/silence were married together and the cunning was a beast all unto itself. I cannot imagine a more pathetic and vacant way to exist on this earth. For James and abusers like James, it’s the air they breathe.
What I have learned is that the exile/silence is about the abuser. They would like you to think that it’s all about you, that you are somehow the cause and the blame for this shift in behavior. I would personalize it, apologize for it and walk on eggshells to prevent it. When I think back to the amount of times James gave me the silent treatment, wouldn’t return calls or texts and cancelled plans, it’s almost comical.
As an abusive man, James finds power in the control that exile and silence brings. He experiences contentment in the pain that the exile and silence creates. That pain and power fills his empty bucket. But because that bucket is riddled with holes, he is compelled to repeat the cycle over and over and over.
Cunning behavior courses through an abuser’s veins. James’ cunning is the mask he wears when you first meet him and are showered with love, attention, kindness and flattery. It is how he is able to lead a secret life and cheat on you, all the while accusing you of being unfaithful to him. It allows him to manipulate all situations to his benefit, making you out as the “crazy” one or “playing” the victim.
I’m quite sure that James thinks he is clever and always a step ahead of the women in his life. He’s wrong. I think some of us can’t quite put a finger on what is happening straight away. Some of us cannot accept that we fell in love with a lie. And some of us are too far entrenched to safely walk away from him. In the end, one way or another, we figure him out. A mask isn’t to be worn forever, after all. It always ends up slipping.
I have to tell you something kind of bizarre. James was so enamored with this way of being that he had these words inked onto his sad little self. Honest to jeepers, if your boo has some shit like that permanently etched into their skin? You need a new boo. For real you do. Never overlook things like this. They are meaningful, even if they seem innocuous or quirky. They are neither.
What is so incomprehensible to me now is how I never thought twice about it. I mean, I did think that it was unattractive and badly done. The meaning, however, wasn’t something sinister in my mind. I assumed he was fond of the character Stephen Dedalus’ rebellion and disregard for convention in Joyce’s novel, A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. After all, James loved me. We were peas and carrots, us two. He wouldn’t hurt me.
But we all know how that turned out.