I’ll never have a wife. I’ll never have children. I’ll never have a close circle of old friends. I’ll never have a career. I’ll never have the most important parts of life.
I lost those opportunities. I could say that I took them from myself, that I fecklessly wasted my best years. Or I could say that I was too weak and pathetic to know that that was what I wanted and then to make it happen. Or I could say that the loss of all that, of the core of life itself, was the product of illness, of a disease, and I’m not responsible for it at all. I could say I’m an innocent victim and, through no real fault of my own, had everything people consider important taken away from me, before I ever even had it…
I don’t which is true, if any. Maybe they all are, to some degree. It’s certainly easier and more familiar to think of it as a moral failing I am guilty of rather than a disease of which I am a victim. But I’m trying to be flexible in how I think of it now. Self-compassion etc. etc. There’s nothing to be gained from self-flagellation.
What I can’t get out from under is the grief. My heart aches. I feel crushed and broken and I don’t think it will ever feel better. Best I can hope for seems like some sort of numbness. Stoic acceptance of my lot. ‘There’s no rule that says everyone gets to be happy’ I tell myself. But I flail at that as I feel it descend over me — I want redemption. I want another chance. I want to go back and do it over, properly. I want the impossible.
And now I have to wonder if that is part of what is behind the trouble I’m having getting M out of my mind. She must represent a nostalgia for that time when my life was before me. Am I so desperate to talk to her now because I it might feel, just for a moment, like being 21 again?
It’s more complicated than that. She really does seem like someone who, our history aside, could help me. Everything she seems to be interested in is spookily appropriate — her hashtags, the science, the positivity, the motivational aphorisms, her politics, her slight embrace of woowoo, the shining intellect. It rings all my bells.
So I’m really curious. I want to know this person. She seems really interesting. And hey, we used to be friends. She used to care for me. True, it ended badly between us but still, that was a long time ago. A lot has happened since then, at least for her I presume, and maybe it would be safe to talk now? To be civil? To be reasonable adults to each other?
But I don’t know anything about her really. Is she married with kids? Is she recently divorced or bereaved? Why is she back in the country? Is she back with her mum? Or is she living with her incredible husband, three kids and a labrador? Better schools here and house prices are lower…
None of that really matters to me. I’m not looking for anything more than some conversation and maybe a little compassion. There’s no question of a relationship, though I assume if I contacted her she might think that I were trying to rekindle something. I don’t really want that. It’s absurd. But that spectre might be enough to make it impossible for us to have any contact at all. And that would, I think, be a shame.
What I want is a friend, an adviser, someone who might be able to explain me to myself, who remembers me in a different time and can see what I can’t.
But what am I to her now? Someone she barely remembers and never thinks about? What would have been her reaction when I ‘reached out’ to her? Disgust? Compassion? Curiosity? Annoyance? I have no idea. I have no idea how welcome or unwelcome another push on that door would be.
So I’m stuck. Unable to contact her, and unable to put her out of my mind. I mentally dictate emails to her — I’ve even written an attempt here. And that’s part of the problem: there’s this tremendous internal pressure — I have so many things I want to say, not to her specifically, but to someone who will listen and care and perhaps respond helpfully and honestly. This blog is intended to release some of that. Not sure if that’s working exactly. So, without that outlet, the pressure builds, and I hold internal conversations with memories of people, and I can’t help but put a face to whomever it is I’m imagining talking to. Because of that lack of displacement over the intervening years, that face is still hers. I wish is weren’t. But it is.
There’s also the whole question of whether I can trust myself to behave like a reasonable human being if I did contact her. I have a poor record on that front. She has, in the past, brought out the worst in me. Not her fault, obviously, but I’ve found her secretiveness frustrating, and I’ve dealt with that frustration poorly. What I can foresee now if I did try to contact her would be a resumption of that secretiveness — entirely predictable and justified when confronted with a potentially crazy ex — and I would be unable to handle the rejection of either being told that she does not wish to have any contact with me or, worse, she would simply ignore me. I would find being ignored especially difficult to accept. I worry that I would escalate until she had to respond, and god knows what I might say or do to make her acknowledge me if I truly lose my grip on this. That’s the power I’ve given her in my mind. She doesn’t want it, I’m sure, but she has it nonetheless.