Sunday, 23 June 2013

Emotional flashpoint

There was always a risk in coming back to North Berwick. M--- and I stayed here in April 2010, while on our penultimate caravan outing together. At the time we feared it really would be the very last trip. But although it was full of awkwardness, we survived and in fact did one more trip in the following July.

We were both determined to make the April trip to Scotland as good-natured as we possibly could. It would become a horrible stuck-far-away-from-home ordeal if we failed. My transition was advancing. I hadn't yet named a date for surgery, but it was clearly coming. And M--- felt that our relationship was rapidly slipping away, probably doomed beyond recovery. She still clung to the notion that she could somehow make me see things differently, the way she saw it. That true love would prevail.

She mistakenly thought it was a question of love between us. It was a dreadful, tragic error. Love was never the issue. Identity was. Love never died, and, as you will perceive if you read on, it has still has not died in my heart. But M--- thought she knew just how things were, and that I was half-mad with an obsessive delusion, and was willing to sideline her for an impossible goal. But all was not yet lost. She still believed I could be rescued from it, that somehow I would yet 'change my mind', and wake up one morning declaring that I'd had a brainstorm, but was all right now. And that I would renounce 'Lucy Melford' forthwith. But in her more realistic moments - and M--- was a practical person, not a dreamer - she saw only a bleak future with her partner, her man, gone forever.

She acknowledged that I had a genuine medical condition. But simultaneously she resented the threat it posed to our life together. She showed me anger and distress against the invisible lurking thing inside me that, so late in my life, had emerged to spoil everything. But she could vent that anger and distress only against me, the tangible person. She couldn't help it. She would not have been human if she had held it all in. I took the verbals and the black moods without complaint or retaliation. I knew she was desperately unhappy, and felt helpless to avert a tragedy.

As I understood it, my fault lay in not putting her needs first. In not being ruled by love. In rejecting the role of protector. In a real sense I was guilty. Guilty of causing pain, of hurting her. No matter what the medical justification, she was being hurt. Her own temperament made it worse, but the situation would have tested the faith and endurance of a saint. No wonder that, on both sides, our emotional states were fragile and close to snapping-point. She with despair, myself with the burden of being the real me.

I dare say it occurred to M--- that if I abandoned Lucy, and stayed J---, she would still not recover the old happiness because I would remain altered, self-aware but frustrated, possibly resentful whatever I did to cope, and in due course that would destroy the relationship. Knowing that she could not avert disaster, could not sustain her dream of togetherness, must have been a terrible strain. Because of that pressure, I have always felt it right to excuse the damaging tirades that came my way in the time before that trip to Scotland. They were provoked by distress, a love seemingly in danger, and not by hatred. By emotions that took hold of M--- and were beyond her control. Just as my own identity issues pushed at me, and were beyond my control. Rationalised like that, it's awful but bearable.

But the other signs that the relationship was dying were just as heartrending. Such as M--- walking in front of me, or behind, and not with me, as if I were unclean. She was embarrassed. The withdrawal of all intimate gestures, because making them hurt. The long-established quips and sayings that couples exchange suddenly becoming stilted and artificial, and losing their power to comfort and unify. These things were part of the protective fence around what was 'us'. For both of us, the loss of these cherished things seemed a brutal deprivation, whether voluntary or not. We were fully united only in misery.

M--- was right to recognise unstoppable change, but she did not have to fear it. She had the otion to look for the upsides, the new potential, the fun. She made no effort to forge a different kind of relationship with me. If she had tried, she could have discovered the qualities I have now developed. She still can try. But silence has descended between us, and I don't think she will break it. In any case, we will both have 'moved on'. That means absolutely no return to what was. It could still mean something quite new, quite different, with different aims and rewards. But of course as people who now live lives at the same end of the male/female spectrum.

So, on to my first evening here. I first stopped off at the Open Arms Hotel in Dirleton to book a yummy Sunday Lunch for myself. Then I drove into North Berwick and bought milk and other stuff from Tesco. Then I parked near the harbour. A sunset was brewing. I walked past the famous seabird centre and up onto the rocks that look out onto the Firth of Forth, and the offshore island of Craigleith. An emotional danger spot. I have a 2010 photo of M--- standing right out at the farthest part of these rocks, waving back to me, as if waving goodbye. I stood now where I had taken the photo. I felt tight-throated and wet-eyed. But I kept control, and started back to the harbour. At that point I met a couple, and the woman spoke with me, just making evening conversation. And as you seem to do, I explained why I was there. 'I'm actually making a kind of pilgrimage,' I began, and the tears welled up and overflowed. She seemed to realise what I was feeling, what might lie behind it. It was just a sudden surge of emotion. Something one could quell. I quickly got myself in hand. Not wanting to make her feel uncomfortable, and owing her an explanation, I briefly outlined a tale. About a close and valued friendship of very long standing that came to grief over an argument. No mention of transition, nor the Cottage fiasco. Just two friends who had lost their way. Two friends who holidayed together no more. And in essence that was all quite true. But I fancy she guessed much that I could not say.

Anon I felt a little better. The photographer in me took over. The sunset needed attention: the light on the wet beach, the clouds, the silhouettes of Fidra and other islands to the west. I got some fine shots.I chatted in normal friendly fashion to people I met out on the links. We said rueful things about the weather. We laughed. Normal life. Today's life.

I did not cry again till I typed this post.

4 comments:

  1. How very touching Lucy. Your story is remarkably similar to mine in regard to M's reaction and the breakdown of your relationship. It is such a pity that you couldn't have remained under the same roof as things might have changed for the better eventually. This was our experience, E and I. At first she totally rejected me (although as you know our marriage broke down years before for other reasons) but after we divorced we stayed under the same roof (somehow we couldn't find a buyer for the house and that in itself was fortunate for us both). We now get along like a house on fire and it's as though nothing between us has changed. I so wish that this could be the same for you too and it isn't beyond the realms of possibility. That can only happen though if there is mutual agreement between you both. Anyway I'm happy you pulled through what must have been a difficult moment when revisiting that place.

    Shirley Anne x

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  2. Lucy, you have touched upon so many hot buttons for so many of us.

    " She had the option to look for the upsides, the new potential, the fun. She made no effort to forge a different kind of relationship with me. If she had tried, she could have discovered the qualities I have now developed."
    is a ongoing issue for me.

    I must comment on how the photographer in you took over and saved you. How often have the muses saved me from descent into a blue-funk. Bless 'em.

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  3. I am sorry that M couldn't find a way to stay. I hope that the pain continues to lessen over time

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  4. She acknowledged that I had a genuine medical condition. But simultaneously she resented the threat it posed to our life together. Suffice to say that those words struck a chord with me and I've re-read them several times. The resentment brought S and me closer to separating than my blog acknowledges.

    The pain of loss (for you) and compromise (for me) is very real, so we learn to rejoice in the good things, rather than dwell too long on things that might have been.

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Lucy Melford