At some point in life all of us will suffer a toxic relationship, a once dream like romance will become a cinematic nightmare, co written and directed by Ari Aster & Jordan Peele.
Yes, it will be a heart wrenching and anxiety inducing experience, you will find yourself gripped, and unable to turn away. You will hush friends who try to warn you of how it will end. Lets face it, no one likes spoilers. But when it does end, and all the red flags that once seemed unimportant, descend like names in the credits. You'll still find yourself, alone in the dark, hoping for that one glimpse of hope. Marvel fans you know who you are.
In no way am I trying to at you, because I was once sat watching the same movie. What I am saying is that you are not alone in this, we met up with poet, academic and actress Francesca Gilbert to discuss her journey into poetry and how it all started.
Francesca describes how the past has led to her understanding,'healthy conscious relationships that are grounded in reciprocity'. I believe that is what we all want, so find a seat and take in what you can.
Dean: Introduce yourself in one sentence?
Francesca: My name is Francesca, and I am an actor, academic, poet and model based in London.
Dean: That is quite a lot to manage, how do you do it ?
Francesca: It is definitely a challenge, and I find that I am still learning how to balance my commitment to those spaces. It takes dedication, careful time management, self care and a strong resilience.
Dean: I can only imagine the level of resilience needed for modelling and acting, they are quite cut throat industries. If you aren't resilient you are bound to crumble.
Francesca: Most definitely. With regard to acting, I believe resilience is one of the most important qualities in order to sustain yourself and your commitment to the craft, long term. For me, the prospect of becoming a better actor is more important than the outcome of an audition. It means that every audition is an opportunity to learn, refine and immerse myself, they are no longer tests, but gifts. Since last October, I have received recalls, offers and roles for every audition I have attended, which has affirmed my belief that it is the undying devotion for the craft that must come first.
"every audition is an opportunity to learn, refine and immerse myself, they are no longer tests, but gifts."
Dean: When and why did you start writing poetry?
Francesca: I began exploring poetry while at art school, however, it is only recently that I truely immersed myself in the art form. After the end of a particularly toxic relationship in the summer of 2019, I used poetry as a means of expressing and processing pain, loss and trauma.
Dean: My friend recently said that poems are an education in emotions, what is your take on the art ?
Francesca: I think that is a brilliant summation of poetry. For me the poems I write embody exactly how I felt at that precise moment. I often describe my early work as 'pictures', as they capture a distinct moment in time during the healing process. Even the very act of documenting emotion by means of text transforms often highly complex, abstracted emotions into tangible communicators which many can relate to.
Dean: Earlier you said that your immersion into poetry began in the summer of 2019, at that time was the act of writing poetry, cathartic?
Francesca: In hindsight I believe that it was, it was almost a way of me validating my experiences at a time when I was drowning in grief, confusion and self doubt.
Dean: its always in hindsight that we are able to see how much we allow, before saying enough is enough. Thinking back, what would you advise someone to look out for ?
Francesca: Of course each relationship is very different, however there are some very distinct tools of toxicity that are present in many dysfunctional romantic relationships. Like, the codependency between an anxious person and an avoidant person. While the anxious person seeks closeness, intimacy and reassurance, the avoidant person is prone to emotional distance, lack of empathy and doesn't feel as if it's their job to understand their partner's emotional needs.
Dean: So would you say that knowing who you are going into a relationship is equally, if not more, important than knowing the person you are in it with ?
Francesca: I absolutely agree. I think we should all have an awareness of ourselves, our patterns, life histories and triggers. I believe it's really important to take ownership of ourselves, we need to recognise how we communicate with others, practice vulnerability, and how we engage in reciprocity. Engaging in self analysis is so important to creating a conscious relationship, a safe space for both partners to enjoy each other.
"we need to recognise how we communicate with others, practice vulnerability, and how we engage in reciprocity."
Dean: What else is on your list?
Francesca: Manipulation is one of the most significant markers of a toxic relationship, and particularly one that I experienced. I would often find myself apologising to keep the peace, particularly when I was not at fault. I also found that I was excusing behaviour that I knew validated my feelings of worthlessness, in exchange for any crumbs of affection that I was given.
Dean: Has this previous relationship shaped your outlook on relationships?
Francesca:It has shaped my outlook in several ways, so I'll try to name a few. Firstly, my previous relationship prompted me to re-conceptualise and rediscover what romantic love means to me. My experience of toxicity within a relationship made me realise that I have yet to experience 'healthy love', or what it feels like. However, I am now well versed on what toxicity feels like. In turn, this has taught me how to value myself, and what happens if I condone behaviours that affirm negative beliefs I have about myself. However, I think the most important lesson I have learnt from my previous relationship, is that romantic love in a relationship doesn’t have to be the centrepiece of your life.In fact, it is the platonic and chosen familial relationships that can be your anchors. By deepening my friendships, I found that I regained my sense of self worth, my self esteem, my value, and with the support of my close friends, I began to unlearn unhealthy patterns, confront past relationship trauma, and fulfil my desires for intimacy through meaningful platonic relationships.
Dean: So would you say that you have healed through the strengthening of your familial bonds and friendships?
Francesca: Most definitely. I am still healing, but those connections have been transformative. Special shout out to my best friend Bianca. We have created a safe space for open communication about our needs and feelings. We have taken the time to get to know each other’s past, our experiences and how they’ve shaped us, our patterns, triggers, dreams, fears, ambitions, and so we are able to be guide each other. In turn, we are very open and honest, forgiving and non judgemental, we discuss nearly everything. Most importantly, we are able to call each other out when we notice something is not in line with our best interest.
Dean: Beyond your friendship and familial bonds, what is your favourite way to recharge?
Francesca: My favourite way to recharge is to write poetry, meditate, perform, to take time off from productivity. I also put myself first when I most it need, this can include cancelling plans to have a self care pamper evening, or clearly communicating my needs in a given circumstance.
Dean: What was the most empowering resolution you made for 2020 ?
Francesca: To learn to immerse myself in poetry, and to take risks without fear. This decision has given me the strength to pursue and achieve things that I never thought I would. I am now a published academic author, I was the lead in a show hosted by The Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, and I have made great strides in my journey to drama school.
Dean: What are you looking forward to most once Corona pandemic is over?
Francesca: Returning to the stage.