#5

The dogs are driving me insane. 

They’ve discovered a baby mole (?) and are now camped in one spot of the garden tunneling for it. I just don’t think I could handle it if they killed Oliver. I mean, there is a limit to the number of animal funerals one person can handle. 

In any event, I haven’t written to you in a while because you were in St Helena last week and we had a chance to chat. It’ll be a while before you reach your next stop but it does feel like the first check point (of many) completed. I didn’t expect how emotionally overwhelming it would be to talk with you again; to hear that you’re happy and healthy and missing me too. 

It helped to bridge some of the anxieties and insecurities I had been wrestling with.  

Anyway, not much has happened since my last letter – Christmas, of course, and my folks were here. They left early this morning, and as I waved goodbye it occurred to me how accustomed I had grown to seeing them only every six months, usually for about a week or two at a time. Watching them leave seemed ordinary. Being without them on a daily basis is difficult, and I certainly have my days when I wish they were a drive away, but missing you from my day-to-day life is somehow more visceral than it has been with anyone. 

Actually, something of significance did happen. I spoke to Dale briefly. I know it’s not the sort of thing that you want to read about, I wouldn’t either, and to be entirely honest, I don’t know how you have dealt with all this. If things were reversed, I doubt I could have shown even half of the grace and maturity that you’ve shown in the last few weeks. 

But while it is happening, I feel that it’s better to tell you. 

When I met you, Dale and I had been broken up for about 4 months. Not at all a significant period of time given that we were together just short of 3 years. Our relationship was turbulent, and chaotic; often manipulative and irrational. We had good days, and happy times together, obviously, but for the most part, we just didn’t fit together. Too much had gone wrong between us, and instead of forgiving each other and ourselves and walking away, we stayed together until we reminded each other of disappointment and anger. 

To put things into a little perspective for you: you and I developed more of a friendship and connection, saw each other more, and built more of a life around each other in two months, than Dale and I did in our first year of knowing each other.

I try not to compare but I think that it’s worth doing in some instances, first for me, because I needed to be able to confront the reality of my relationship with him, and let it go, and second for you, to take comfort in that you are not the follow-up to an extraordinary love gone wrong. I cannot remember a time when it was right.

So whilst 4 months may seem (to a lot of people) like inadequate time to properly grieve a relationship, for me, it was more of an awakening. I had spent so long in that bubble of resentment and heartbreak that I forgot entirely what it meant to be truly at peace and happy. Not just with other people, but with myself too. I forgot that it was possible to wake up light, and not be weighed down by insecurity and inner turmoil that I couldn’t quell. 

That said, I did grieve. I cried for half an hour every day for a month. I cried in supermarkets. I cried walking Wilson. I spent more time and energy than I had, trying to think of a way to make it work. In hindsight, this was almost entirely because Dale continued to call, text and come around giving me the impression that he also felt that way, and I was utterly convinced that somehow it was my responsibility to ensure that we were making the right decision for both of us.

But I realised one day that I was crying over the end of an idea of a relationship, and of a man. Neither of which had ever existed. I had spent 3 years waiting for Dale to become someone else, and for that someone else to choose me, and for me, to be worthy of him choosing me. All of which sounds ridiculous once you write it down, but was the truth for me.

And after that day, I didn’t cry any more.

So this tumultuous and uneasy relationship is what I have been trying to put behind me. I have been trying to undo its damage and recognise all the ways in which it creeps into my current life so that I can stop it in its tracks.

I’m sure you’ve rolled your eyes at the number of times I call ‘trigger’ over what should be meaningless exchanges between us. I suppose that’s how all of life works.

The reason I’ve written this not-so-short tangent is because finally, after half a year apart, Dale is now out of my life. We spoke and it seemed for a moment like we might be able to salvage even some semblance of a friendship but he still refuses to do the work the rest of us do to learn and grow out of our experiences. To be honest with ourselves.

And I can finally walk away from the responsibility of trying to lead someone to a place where they refuse to go, no matter how hard you try to convince that it is what’s best for them.

So I wished him well, and he said that he hopes we are happy and that he was sorry. Sincere or not, I appreciated the bookend to the chapter.

This year has not been at all what I expected from it. But I am looking forward to beginning 2018 with a new me, and with you, and with hope.

Together, we start afresh.

X

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#3

Today is one of those rare, perfect Cape Town days. Cool, clear sunshine, and no wind. Summer days that are made for day trips to Silvermine, and gin cocktails by the dam.

I am sitting in the corner of the living room, burrowed in amongst pillows and cushions. Next to me, Wilson is having his early afternoon nap. It is the prelude to a hyperactive late night, I’m sure.

But for the most part, time has slowed down. I’m positive of it. Life seems infinitely long without you around. Today is one week down (and at least seven more to go). Despite having all sorts of plans and goals for getting my life routine back on track, all I seem to be able to do is think about you, and us, and the future. I say think, I mean obsess.

Today has been particularly difficult. Lost deep in my missing you, I scrolled through a couple of photos of you on Facebook and I felt an overwhelming sense of detachment and uncertainty. Not in that I feel differently; but that I was faced with how little I actually know about you and your life.

I know that our lives from before we met each other have little to do with where we are going and that knowing who you are as a person should be more than enough. But there is some instinctive part of me – I think it’s the me that spent most of her formative years lost in a cycle of mistrust and chaos, watching people betray each other – that compels me to want to know everything about a person before I offer them any semblance of trust or faith.

In my adult years, this has been the primary contributing factor to my own internal anxiety. It has caused constant disruptions in relationships and friendships. As far as I was concerned, people were messy terrors who given half the chance would ruin you, in reckless messy ways. It didn’t help that my previous relationship enforced and exacerbated this sentiment. Especially since its initiation was predicated on me attempting to re-wire that part of my thinking.

But in its wake, I knew that despite having failed once, I needed to try once more. For better or worse, people deserved a chance right? Or rather, I deserved a chance to escape the inescapable loneliness that comes with keeping everyone you know at an arm’s length.

So I created a new set of rules for myself, and how I would interact with people.

We ask questions as they occur to us. We say things as we think or feel them. We say them honestly with the confidence that the other person will receive them for what they are, and not with personal connotations and triggers. And when we fail miserably at this, which we will because we’re all of us messy terrors, we will say even that. And if we do this, if we could feel this deep comfort then perhaps it wouldn’t matter that we didn’t know every detail about each other.

I resolved to have faith in this system of communication. And with you, it has been particularly easy thus far. You arrived with your own insecurities and uncertainties, and I am forever grateful that you arrived also with a willingness and courage to share them.

But today has tested my resolve in a remarkable way. I felt my instinct to self preserve kick in as I thought on how casually I had embarked on this tremendous journey with you.

I choked back tears as I felt my heartbeat accelerate and my head began to spin. Do I really know anything about the kind of person that you are? Why did you choose to study Nature Conservation? What makes you sad? What makes you angry? When did you fall in love for the first time? What is it like in your head when you’re all alone? Where are you happiest? What draws you to the ocean? If you could change one decision that you’d made in your life, what would you change? 

The resulting panic from the lack of answers was hard to contain because, I suppose, this all comes down to one thing: Have I made a good decision about you and us? 

You are offering up so much of yourself, and your life, in the pursuit of us. On the list of people that I have disappointed in my life, I hope to never add your name. My penchant for mistrust is deeply embedded in the core of who I am, try as I might to undo it.

So darling, while you’re away, I am learning and unlearning. I am holding onto faith and finding courage.

I keep sending myself back to my closest moments with you; the moments when I felt so confidently that I was safe with you, at home with you.

I promised to take this risk with you. So into the deep, we go.

Wherever you are out there, I hope you are having a better time with this than I am.

With love,

X

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