You can reclaim the past. You can revisit places where something awful happened, and exorcise them. Today I drove over to the Forest of Dean, and after exploring the Forest to an extent never before attempted, I rounded it off with a visit to Symonds Yat. The high place that overlooks the River Wye as it takes a sharp loop through a deep valley that is almost a gorge.
This wasn't my first visit. I came here in July 2010, with M---. We arrived in a state of exhaustion. She had spent most of the preceding hour giving vent to her feelings over how my transition was affecting her. Any wife, any girlfriend, who has a transitioning partner can imagine for themselves what M--- in her distress might have said. It began as a reasonable low-key discussion on some aspects of my feminisation, then - she simply couldn't help herself - M--- launched into an excoriating critique of my attitude, my selfishness, my uncaring and callous indifference to her suffering. How I had set aside love, set aside all wisdom and decency and consideration for others. I answered this as well as I could at first, but reason and soft words merely fanned the flames. Then I tried compliant agreement and even acquiescent silence, but these made it worse still. All the time I was driving up the winding Wye valley, and had to concentrate hard on the road. M--- knew she was damaging what was left of our tattered relationship. She said so; but she could not stop until she ran out of words. I was practically shaking by the time we approached Symonds Yat. It was my birthday, by the way.
Once in the car park, the mood changed. I won't say it changed completely, but M-- had her balance back, and could function normally. We took a look at the magnificent view of the River Wye far below in its deep valley. M--- spoke to an ornithologist from the RSPB about the nesting hawks in the cliff face across the way. I was watchful, wary, battered and braced for another tirade on the way back to Newport.
But it never happened. It never did happen again like that, ever. It was M---'s last fighting effort, the last assault by verbal force. After that she was infinitely regretful, sad beyond any telling, but she never again hurled words at me in that way. As you can probably sense from the way that I'm telling this, I'm not without sympathy for her world-view and what she saw as a devastating personal loss, something that was then still worth fighting for, even if the passion might get out of control. I can't blame her, and would defend her if anyone said she should have shown restraint. It wasn't humanly possible for her to do so. But it was still one of the most difficult hours of my life.
It was also the final end of our caravanning together. I can't speak for M--- (though I can easily guess) but as I write this I feel a heavy weight in my heart about the forced ending of a nine-year activity that we both enjoyed so much. This is despite my present delight in solo caravanning. And the practical impossibility of doing it together again (how could I dilate in the same small space?). Well, you can have two contradictory feelings at the same time, believe me!
Symonds Yat became for me a place ruined by a bad memory, a symbol of defeat and failure, a forbidden destination. But I wasn't going to leave it that way. Hence my visit today.
Did it work? Yes. It was reclaimed and exorcised. Bell, book and candle weren't needed, just plenty of sunshine, an ice cream, and a nice cup of tea. Same person, same car. I'd like to think that, quite independently, M--- has made - or will make - a parallel visit to reclaim this beautiful place for herself. And everywhere else that we loved as a couple, to take them back for herself and then enjoy them in the time to come, as I will.