I don't usually have a problem deciding on what is the best course, but this particular decision is a difficult one for me.
It concerns my ex-partner, M---. This year, in August, she has an Important Birthday, one that in ordinary circumstances nobody would fail to acknowledge. August is five months away, but I can't shelve the issue. I need to make my mind up about it now.
M--- and I, when together, always paid great attention to our birthdays and never let them go by without some kind of celebration. There would always be a nice card, very carefully chosen and sometimes handmade; and a present; or at least a treat of some sort, such as a romantic meal out. Myself in July, M--- in August. It was a summertime thing, often while we were on holiday and in a festive mood anyway.
Even the onset of my transition did not at first affect our tradition of treating our birthdays, and especially Important Birthdays, as very special events. I think the underlying reason was a romantic one: the accumulating years together made our relationship seem ever more successful and enduring, and we siezed on birthdays and anniversaries as little landmarks in our life together. But of course my transition did eventually compromise, and then wreck, the mutual feeling that celebration was in order.
M--- faltered first, as soon as she realised that the relationship was not going to survive. More particularly, perhaps, that it would become something she couldn't live with. By unspoken consent we curtailed the birthday fuss. It seemed inappropriate. It also seemed dishonest and unrealistic and unhelpful - energies were better spent coping with all the emotional damage that was piling up. By the middle of 2010, M--- was unable to control her grief and bitterness, and a permanent parting was the only solution. Selling the Cottage enforced ongoing contact by email till August 2011, and then her insistence on having scanned copies of certain photos from our early years in the 1990s meant monthly CDs until the end of 2012. But ever since, silence. We have no reason to be in touch, and never encounter each other out and about.
Looked at dispassionately, I think I might be well advised to leave things at that, and let sleeping dogs lie. There is also the concern that if I break the silence, and send M--- Important Birthday greetings, I will annoy or distress her by reminding her of my existence and of what she has lost.
And yet, to me, it seems unspeakably churlish and incivil to pretend that I have 'forgotten' this very special forthcoming birthday. For I bear her no ill-will, even though the death-throes of our relationship hurt me too. I really would like to know she is all right. Greetings sent now, separately from the rush of greetings she will receive from family and friends in August, might open up a dialogue, and at least create the chance of better trust and understanding between us.
And yet to what end? Last year I pondered the pros and cons of contacting certain Old Life friends who wouldn't yet know that I had become Lucy. People who were educated and intelligent and (you might assume) receptive to something new and different. But on analysis I'd decided that it wouldn't work. They had liked the Old Me, and wouldn't want to embrace the New Version. Better not to disturb their memories. I can't help feeling that much the same now applies with M---. Yes, it would be almost rude not to acknowledge her Important Birthday. Yes, there is a possibility that a handwritten letter from me (not a card) might be interpreted as a friendly gesture, an olive branch, a sign that I had not forgotten her. But a communication from me would also churn up emotions and reopen barely-healed wounds and resentments. No, I must not do that.
So - mainly on the ground that I don't want to hurt M--- further - I seem to have reached a conclusion, that I had best not write to her, now or later. She is after all entitled to be Lucy-free for the rest of her life, and I ought to respect that. In fact, if she has built a fresh life with someone else (I have no information on that) then I absolutely mustn't pop up again to divert her from making a success of it.
What I can (and will) do is raise a personal (and very private) glass to her on 14th August, and wish her all the best. She'll never know about that toast, but I will have saluted her, and it's something harmless and well-intentioned that I can do every year.