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the sound of music

cathy

A wild and violent night, when the wind verbally abuses the rooftops and the shrill, anxious voice of the beech trees choruses the angry baritone of the sea against the hills. I’m standing outside again, revelling in the blows and buffets, a willing victim of each salt-spray slap.

Hysterical, in the ‘Cathy and Heathcliff’ not funny sense, so let’s rewind to the beginning.

It always seems to be the little things which start the arguments. This time we started over which actor played Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. You couldn’t make up the things which happen in a dysfunctional relationship; they are so funny in a dreadful, twisted way.

I was wrong (about the Captain), not surprisingly as my memory gave out years ago under the black weight of the past, but I can’t believe that I was so stupid, that I opened my mouth at all, that I haven’t learned how much anger can suddenly come out of a tiny, misjudged comment. I stood like a kid who has dropped a match into petrol and watched my world explode.

After the shouting, the accusations, the endless, endless dragging up of vile, decaying moments from our past, there was a haunted calm in which the two exhausted armies stared red-eyed across the battlefield, still strewn with those ugly, dead memories but beneath the wind quiet and sad now, waiting. Finally, we called a truce on all references to the past and met as grownups for the first time in years. We walked that grim war-ground together until two or three am but all we could agree was that there is nothing, nothing but sadness; nothing he wanted or could offer me at all.

So I said goodbye. I moved into the guest bedroom and I brooded through the storm into the long bleak dawn but I still don’t know whether I was throwing one more shot to shock him into standing up and loving me – would that even be possible? Or did I honestly, bravely decide that I lack the strength and patience to live in slavery, waiting for someone to say that I have earned their love? My turn to say those three little words; like him, I don’t know – but now we don’t know alone.

So, after all, this is Wuthering Heights, not The Sound of Music; Maria will not earn the heart of her Captain and however hard the wind blows the hills will be dead and silent forever.

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mr darcy

Fitzwilliam Darcy is 200 years old and still the epitome of desirable man. When I close my eyes and think of him, do I see Colin Firth striding from the lake, his clothes plastered to his perfect form? Yes, I admit it, yes; though a scene of tacky cinematic invention and not at all of Jane Austen’s wonderfully understated novel, the moment is almost as timeless.

The difficult, temperamental and sometimes dour Mr Darcy inexplicably appeals to many modern women who really should know better just as strongly as he did to the naïve Elizabeth Bennett. Those of us who have reached a certain stage of life’s journey and had our hearts unreasonably trampled by men of the Mr Darcy mould now openly warn our younger sisters that such strong stuff is for fun, not for marriage – something which the older ladies in Jane Austen’s novels seem unable or perhaps unwilling to do – and yet the attraction remains.

As I attempt to step through the minefield of my own Fitzwilliam’s moods as skillfully as Jane Austen whilst maintaining the innocent pertness of Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth, I have to ask, why? What does a deeply conservative, socially blinkered, emotionally hamstrung 200 year old man-child offer so enduringly to independent 21st century women? And what are 21st century men to make of this strange attraction?

Perhaps we are better at discerning the difference between life and fiction than sometimes credited and recognise Mr Darcy as love’s aspirin for our egos. However life may crush us, this apparently unattainable, disdainful and antagonistic heart-throb is the one man who nevertheless can be won so entirely by our irresistible charms as to declare unfailingly ‘you have bewitched me body and soul…’; who will meet us no matter what with eyes filled with unshakeable ardour and admiration.

I can’t begin to answer this question, although I feel I should say ‘Girls, be careful what you wish for’. Now I need a break from my own realities, so I’m just going to close my eyes for a while….

black holes

black hole

Yesterday my husband told me that he does not recall one happy memory from our marriage. Could there be any words in any language from any time to follow that? I had thought that the day I woke up had to be the lowest of my life, but it turned out to be the first step down the long winding staircase from my tower into a dark netherworld I had no idea existed.

How did I feel: There are no words for that either, just a picture; the CGI swirling black hole which always features at the low point of the disaster movie, only inside him, inside me, inside our relationship, pulling in the light, the warmth, the joy, sucking in everything. I didn’t feel. A black hole is a region of space-time from which nothing can escape, even light: I was gone.

Imagine throwing something into the air. The harder you throw, the faster the object is travelling when it leaves your hand and the higher it will go before turning back. If you throw it hard enough it will never return, the gravitational attraction of earth (or me) will not be able to pull it back down. The velocity the object must gain to escape is known as the escape velocity. I think he is throwing his cruelty at me, harder and harder, to try to reach his escape velocity – eventually he’ll throw something so cruel so hard that he’ll break free and never come back.

But in space,as the object travels it is crushed into a smaller and smaller volume, the gravitational attraction increases, and so the escape velocity gets bigger. Things have to be thrown harder and harder to escape. Eventually a point is reached when even light (which travels at 186 thousand miles a second) is not travelling fast enough to escape. At this point, nothing can get out as nothing can travel faster than light. This is a black hole; this is where we are.

Of course, you can’t see a black hole in space (because it absorbs light); science can only tell us that there are good reasons to believe they exist – which, if you are not a scientist, puts black holes high up on the ‘don’t discuss at dinner’ shelf along with deities, ghosts and conspiracy theories. I’m more a believer than a sceptic by nature (otherwise I wouldn’t be going through this!) but in the depths of my darkness, a thought whispered in my ear like a naughty fairy:
What if I just didn’t believe him?

Not believing people isn’t nice. Relationships are built on trust and respect and that involves a commitment to accept what people say at face value, more or less. But there are times when we accept, for good reasons, what someone tells us without actually believing it – when Grandma says she still sees Grandpa sitting by the fire, when your child tells you they have stomach ache and can’t go to school. It doesn’t mean it’s true, it means it’s true for them and it lets you know where they are at that time. Grandma misses Grandpa, Charlie is feeling anxious or afraid;

my husband is a very depressed and angry man.

I need help.

not sleeping

heart

It’s half past three and I still can’t get to sleep. Every time I let my mind relax it starts thinking about you; about how brave you are each day and how hard it is for you, about how I just want to hug you but I know you wouldn’t like me to. About how handsome you always look in your pinstripe suit. About the way I felt so happy inside when you said you felt a moment of tenderness for me and how by the end I felt like my heart was breaking again.

I don’t know how I can feel this heartbreak over and over again, except I suppose I keep hopefully sticking the worthless little thing back together so that I can offer it to you one more time.

Normally when a thought keeps me awake at night I write it down but I can’t just keep writing you down, You, You, You, You … so I wrote this and then instead of posting to you I posted to a blog. I hope you sleep well wherever you are and have a good day tomorrow. xxx

rock-in-water

After feeling cheerful and positive yesterday, back to reality. It is Monday morning and he is getting ready to leave again, his mind already elsewhere, a note of tension in his voice. To be fair, he is trying to make polite conversation in the kitchen – but it isn’t going well. Then he asks me a question which makes me cringe inside; it’s an apparently innocent question about the young friends I saw yesterday but I know there is no answer I can give which will not wind him up and set him ticking like the clock on a time bomb. If I don’t answer, he’ll be furious, so I do my best; I fail, the rant starts …

Eventually he notices that I have stopped trying to think of responses and so he turns the sharpness on me. How can we talk when I’m crashing around the kitchen? (I’m filling the dishwasher) How can he be expected to talk to me when I’ve been so rude this morning? His words bruise me like stones but I know better than to react or show my hurt.

Have I been rude? I’m no saint, but I’ve been trying so hard to stay calm and polite. I stop doing chores, turn around, make eye contact (which makes me realise how often I avoid that) and try- really try – to be soothing, gentle, positive. It’s just so demoralising knowing that his bitterness is crouching there, waiting for a tiny excuse to pounce, even an imagined excuse.

I think when we get to a certain point on our downward spiral we begin to see the world in such a dark way that no-one can make a situation happy for us. Insult lurks in every comment; the life experiences of the sweetest young people become a contemptible heap of errors. We lose perspective, humility, generosity and joy.

And so a dear, dear man, who was once a laughing, loving boy with a thrilling appetite for life becomes a bitter, angry, spiteful old man, hoarding his hurts like a miser’s gold. I say old, although he is the same age as me, because nothing seems to age a person like anger. Anger’s stern grey lines mark his face like time’s mapmaker, but none of the journeys have happy endings.

If you want to be happy and stay young, learn to let time wash away life’s scars; be a rock, steadfast in the river of your experiences, feeling life as a cool caress as it laps and tumbles against your gleaming skin.

mittens spoon
My life seems to have no affirming moments at the moment, but I have been cheered up by talking about loss and bereavement with a very sweet friend. Her hamster has just come to the end of its 1000 days and although it was very small – a pygmy hamster in fact – she poured a lot of love into its tiny speckled life and it brought her a lot of joy.

On Friday morning Mittens did not join her for breakfast; he had achieved what we might all hope for one day, and died peaceful and much loved in his sleep of old age. This lovely girlfriend also has a great sense of fun and the ability to see the positive in almost anything, as she showed again when she told me about Mitten’s burial.

It isn’t easy to dispose of a well-loved pet when you live in a small flat in a big city. After spending some of the morning reviewing all the pictures of Mittens in happier times saved on her computer, and crying, she rummaged in the cupboards to find a small disposable container. In the end she emptied a box of tea and put the hamster – wrapped in tissue – in the box, (although she is now concerned that she will never again catch the scent of Earl Grey without feeling sad.)

Then with the box in her shoulder bag – and feeling rather uneasily like a drug smuggler -she took a bus to the park to find a quiet place. At this point she realised that she had nothing to dig with, but a search through the bag uncovered a spoon in her lunchbox (also apparently in the bag with the deceased hamster!) so she dug a grave with the small spoon for her yoghurt and buried the box in the hole.

After sitting quietly for a few minutes she walked away down the path towards the gate, but glancing back she saw a dog already sniffing around the foot of her chosen tree, so she had to run back, shoo the dog away – then apologise to the dog’s owner – before getting out the spoon again and digging the hole much deeper, seeking out a big stone to place on the grave and taking one last photo. Finally, with very dirty hands and a spoon which could never serve yoghurt again, she was able to walk to work.

We laughed a lot while she shared this story with me, which chased away some of the sadness of her loss, and then we planned to go out soon to look at hamsters in a nice pet shop nearby. It made me think about how this girl fills her life with experiences, and also about the importance of finding the positive in a situation in order to gain the strength to move forward. What a special gift it is to be able to find this sunny side – and even more so to be able to share it with the people we care about.

silence

This week I have been on a journey and I have discovered that, like Alice, I have well and truly lost my muchness. There’s no sign of me, no sign of my relationship. The one good I can get from this is that, since the past is completely broken and lost to me, I have to start from where I am now.

I know I said that I would be terrified of a New Year resolution list at the moment, but I have been thinking about how strongly I need to do something to initiate change, and finally I thought ‘I need a list’; so here are the things which I would like to change to improve my relationship. Because I cannot make changes outside myself, this list is about me.

There are ideas here which might make some people very angry; I do know that women have fought hard and in many places are still struggling for the rights which I seem to be planning to give away. But I am a long way into this relationship and have succumbed to the temptation to use short cuts when I deal with and speak to the man I love.

So the idea behind this list is to make myself focus on ways that I have overstepped the boundaries of respect, kindness and polite behaviour – to remind myself to walk carefully without treading on another person’s feelings.

Things I will change to improve my relationship with my husband

1. My insistent opinion. It’s not till I try not to disagree or contradict that I realise what an argumentative person I am at the moment. It is anti-modern and personally almost impossible to give up my right to express my opinion, but I can see him flinch and close up every time I indulge myself, so enough.

2. My desire to be right. I’m no more likely to be right than anyone else, so why do I assume that I am correct? In order to be right, I make him is wrong; I can see how that must hurt.

3. My criticism. When you’re with someone a lot they get on your nerves; the mannerisms you used to love, how much they snore, whether they work too hard or not hard enough. I have slipped gradually into the habit of letting many little things annoy me and worse, of commenting on them. That must be debilitating. I’ve also been so hard on myself that I need a drop of mercy too.

4. My sexuality. I love my husband and I feel a strong attraction towards him. It’s increasingly painful that he is unhappy to be close to me, to be touched by me or to accept any gestures of affection, but I have to respect his boundaries. If I reverse the scenario, if he – a man – was pushing unwanted attention on me – a woman – the rules would be clear.

5. My lack of patience. I am frustrated, I want things and I want them now! But other people don’t always work to our time schedules, and I am aware that pushing to get what I want, the way that I would in business, is not appropriate or helpful, or kind. I have to wait.

A short list but how far I can succeed in restraining myself and keeping to it I don’t know; I just don’t know. But I will try, so don’t be angry – wish me luck!