I would rather be a friend, than be a lover [or something quite sincerely in the way of serious apology …]

I wrote this a couple of hours ago over at my Instagram account:

“Shall we make this a film, dear #C?”
“Why not, dear #M?”
“A film with a happy ending, dear #C?”
“A film with a happy ending, dear #M!”
“But a happy ending where you and I end up together!”
“Can you really not leave anything to chance?”
“Pot; kettle; black; and all.”
“True, dear #M. True enough …”
And so bells of joy ring out sweetly afterwards.
And so #M & #C and #C & #M resoundingly sound out each other’s affection and love. 🙂
And so then, *only* then, let’s finally wend our private way to a future of real contentment, life *and thrive!*
“No, dear #C?”
“Of course, dear #M!!!”
And so of course, dear couple: let it be …
FOOTNOTE: Just to clarify – I know this could only ever be a film, never reality. And I know I am older than the hills. But even old men have a right to dream young dreams. Even old men do, don’t you think? 🙂

Some of the content took a few versions to appear; and most importantly, the footnote wasn’t there until right at the end of the redrafting process.

I feel it now, however, the feelings expressed I mean, as I have not done before and for such a long time.  This project – lifeworklab.uk – is clearly reaching its useful end, but during its procession of strange emotions and pent-up thoughts unbolted (to use the terminology of two particularly poetic friends and – dare I say? – geniuses of the web), I think I was – as one tutor alluded to me recently – testing nihilistic boundaries of some sort or other.  And as anyone does when this is the case, floods of transgressive activities generally issue forth.

It is clear I was hurt by many people during my life, but it is equally clear – without wanting to (and so maybe, neither they) – I did quite a bit of hurting back myself.

And what’s more, I now realise emotionally as well as intellectually, being hurt doesn’t automatically make us qualified – that is to say, give us a burning right – to cause others similar experiences, and to a similar degree.

So when these strange dynamics began, around March or April-time of 2016, and the woman I have called variously C or Claire, on a couple of occasions Claire B, and even by her full name, offered to meet me on my flying visit to Dublin, it was my nihilism unbound (not a reason; not an excuse; but a reality, all the same) that led me to presume that a twenty-something woman could ever be interested in me, myself, mine; as and for me as a man.

The age difference for one marks us out as entirely unsuited; the fact that she is in a firm relationship already is one more jolly good reason not to proceed; that I had already had a brief affair with her mother, an awfully complicating matter; and then, finally, the reality that I – at the time – was confused about the future of my still existent marriage, just one additional and clearly definitive nail in the coffin of this relationship of manifest mortality.

There were, are, always will be many other quite different and valid reasons for the two of us to want to occasionally chatter and natter about the family that ties us, too often unspokenly, too often inevitably, together: an awfully complex, sometimes joyful, but usually (in my mind) tremendously oppressive environment I am now mostly, where not entirely, grateful to be more or less convincingly rid of.

Yes.  To say you can only fly in aeroplanes and drive cars, and then move forwards in a life, by cutting out of that very same entity your father, mother, and two of your four siblings – the brothers in this case; the sisters remain in scope, where they desire and wish to be – is a damn sore thing to effect and act upon.  But it’s true.  In December 2015, I was terrified of doing almost anything: and, coincidentally, I still maintained relationships with all my parental and cousinly family, on practically all sides and to greater or lesser degrees.  By the middle of 2016, only my second cousin who I’ve already mentioned, a dear dear first cousin on the same side who has stuck with me through thick and thin, my children and wife barely it has to be said – but even so, presently – and one of my two sisters more than the other, had been saved from the pretty savage familial cull I have carried out.

And yet you see me now: over that period mentioned I no longer am frightened of flying or driving at all.  Of doing so many things.  Of being able to refuse a paranoia I am clear was never internal to me; but, instead, environmentally sourced by my very peculiar upbringing – and when I say upbringing, I mean both parental and then that which my adulthood afforded me.

Driving and flying, then.  Two key verbal constructions, psychologically significant, for a writerly person of my metaphorical and figurative bent.

There is, of course, something obviously still missing from my life.  And here, I accept, it will probably be like that for a long time to come.  It’s the sexual side of human relationships; something my wife has never convincingly wished for, and I have never convincingly pursued outwith the matrimonial bonds.  It has caused me great distress: to such an extent that last year I went to couple-counselling by myself for about ten weeks.

I guess it doesn’t often happen.

My wife has no obligation to be sexually active.

But neither do I have an obligation to desire permanent sexual inactivity.

Therein the impasse, and the madness of my infatuation with Claire over the past twelve months.

The silence between us that followed my second meeting with her in Dublin, shortly after the first, has been the most painful thing I have ever endured.  Perhaps, actually, it was a well-designed punishment; perhaps she was defending the memory of her mother who has had her own most difficult trajectory, after the relationship we so briefly maintained.  But her mother is perfectly content these days, as far as I know, with her situation in life.  I, meanwhile, have never accepted my diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia; never, I tell you.  Never at all.

And I never shall.

My battle to understand the whys that put me in that secure facility for a month in the summer of 2003 will never end now (even as – cutting out of it drastically so much of this close family as I have – I am able to conduct a far more pleasurable life than before I ever was able to).

And that, I guess, is what will always separate from any other further contact or mutual outreach this woman I call Claire, her mother, and the family which stand beside the former on the one hand, and on the other, my own current posture and fairly unmovable positions, at least to date.

Claire’s mother believes, or so I have been led to believe anyway (primarily, it must be said, via her very own communications), that you look to the future by leaving the past behind; by ignoring it; by unfocussing.

I, on the other hand, believe the future must be built on solid foundations; and those foundations can only be built on a truth and transparency which come prior to a real and validating reconciliation.

I went to Spain a week or so ago, with my long-suffering wife (for just because one partner suffers awfully at the hands of another’s behaviours doesn’t mean the other’s own suffering must necessarily be non-existent).  It was a congenial time because I ignored the lack of physical chemistry.  I did exactly the same all our married life.  When I stopped doing it, I was accused of having changed.  I guess it is true: I did.  I changed because I started saying exactly what I had wanted all along.

I think our marriage may reach a stasis of some kind, even now, if we are both flexible enough to focus on the good – time spent with three grown-up children, now achieving magnificent goals and occupying wonderful spaces and places – and then choosing simply not to be together when the bad might conceivably arise.

In a modern egalitarian century, a woman has every right to choose her sexuality.  And what one might term zero sexual activity – ie an absence of the same – is, in truth, one sexuality and one real choice we should clearly accept.  It is not an absence at all.  It is a manifestation of a certain way of being sexual.

And it’s quite possible that the joy and expression of her humanity, which she seriously and undeniably possesses, she prefers to engineer and deliver via the humour and laughter her contact with her children provide.

There is no compulsion for any human being, any woman, to focus on a partner when expressing their inner or sexual self.

That is what all the poetry of the last nineteen months has taught me.

We are nothing if we do not allow others to follow their paths.

And so the marriage, for me, must now reshape itself.  And I am ready, as I have already alluded to on these pages, to lose my children and their respect if I must.  I want to carry out the academic activity I think I am so well suited to, and which I have been unable to deliver in the second semester and this summer so far, more than anything else in my life.  But I realise, now, I will not be able to do this whilst I do not have the physical love, embrace, contact and regular caresses of a woman who does know how to love me as I want.

Neither, of course, in any sensible and proper conceptualisation of the world, of this rock and of the universe more widely, will this ever conceivably be Claire’s role or responsibility (if responsibility is ever the right word, even in the very best of circumstances).

So, in this sense, I find myself – as so many times in my life – starting from painful scratch; starting from zero.

Starting from a zero which, in truth, was never anything but.

No numbers represented Claire in my world.  No kind truths on my part; no generosities I could look back to, and point out, and measure, and use to demonstrate my own value and validity as even her trusted friend.

I am optimistic, nevertheless.  Even as I must – to a degree – accept that beyond this moment the living of my life in a solitude which is really not my being (for honestly, given the opportunity, I am one of the most sociable beings you can ever have the pleasure to stumble across), there surely has, one day, to exist some soul out there somewhere who will want to share a bed with me for more than lonely moments of slumber.

In the meantime, if any of the implicated in today’s post feel aggrieved, and I would entirely agree and understand, were they to feel in this way and react in such a manner, then do get in touch; do make that step.

I have learnt my lesson: I would rather be a friend, than be a lover.  No longer will I write my poetry out of nihilism.

No longer will I write half as much poetry as I’ve done.

I am grounded, happier, and soon to be free.

But free in the best sense: not that liberty of cracked bell, but – rather, far more signficantly – the flight of brave, nestless offspring, spinning suddenly, wildly and quite fabulously grand into each of their very own futures.

And the foundation I demand for such futures to form themselves?  The apology I need to make, unreservedly to everyone affected.

You hurt me unknowingly.

But I suspect in return, I knew rather more about exactly what I was doing when I hurt you all back.

And where you hid from me the truth of my incarceration, you truly thought you were doing it for my own good.

The expediency and collateral damage of so much wartime fudge.

And fudge, I love – especially vanilla, didn’t you know?

So that apology, that set of apologies, lies out there on the terrain of familial disdain.  There are many people, even so, I never want to speak to again.  But an apology does not demand a kowtowing on bending knee.  And whilst forgiveness is forgiveness, it requires and implies no parallel processes of rapprochement either.

Let us all carry on with the lives we just have to lead.  And those of us who wish to meet up, let us do so in sincere kindness and love.  But no more papering over the cracks of misunderstanding.

That we can leave to the past.

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