Another week break from the letter writing. Last time out I was, amongst the waffle, speculating whether those tentative reactions to things on Facebook (in both directions from us) were metaphorical olive branches, or water testing mechanisms on some level. Then I wondered if I was over-thinking, so stopped myself going down that track, because over-thinking is exactly the thing that was crippling me earlier in this process.
It’s been a goodish week. Work has some challenges, which I won’t bore you with, but on Friday I took the van up to a friends’ and we had a small Covid-safe gathering, live music, I even had a few drinks. I took it steady given my alcohol tolerance levels must be rock bottom given I barely drink at home. It was such a fun night though, great to see some folk I’ve not seen in far too long and hear some live music.
Friday was the day that also saw you break the silence of more than a month with a text message — you’d misplaced a coat and wondered if it was up here. I did a quick check, it wasn’t. You added that you were catching a train for the first time since you used to regularly do that to come up here, and it was making you reminisce / feel sad. As well as saying I couldn’t find the coat here I acknowledged the thought, asked if you’d had your new injection and confessed that I miss you (and I do).
You said you had and it was really helping, this one needs replenishing more frequently so hopefully you don’t get that long wind-down phase where things go haywire. I suggested if you were more level emotionally it might actually make a conversation easier — before you’d been stuck in ‘impact on me’ mode and were still in a very unreasonable place when it came to me in particular. And to offer the counterpoint, I was probably not in a great place mentally to communicate clearly either.
You were at the War of the Worlds experience with your Dad in London. We were all going to go to that in a past life — you sent a couple of pics as it was progressing, it did look awesome. You asked if we could FaceTime later in the evening when you were back from London — as I was off up to the party I suggested Saturday instead, you were spending the day with your Mum, step-dad and sister (which is great!), but free in the evening, as was I. We did exchange a few more messages later — largely you jokingly telling me not to drink too much, haha!
So Friday night was fun and it wasn’t really until I got home on Saturday that I actually thought about the impending call. I think we’ve given each other a bit of space and time but still left a lot of things unsaid, but I was pensive because we’ve literally not spoken or ‘seen’ each other since that awful day nearly three months ago. If you think back to my earlier letters I was very worried about you, because you weren’t behaving like yourself, and I guess as time progressed with limited contact I was able to intuit my own narrative largely fuelled by guesswork and rumination. Hardly likely to be accurate, and generally built up to a bit of a character assassination which I don’t think was entirely fair.
I didn’t know whether it would be awkward or natural. You texted in the evening to say you were on your way home from your Mum’s and was it still okay. I decided it was. I was nervous but — if I’m honest — a little excited to talk to you too. When the phone rang the first thing that occurred was that your ringtone was just the default one, ha. I answered and it was a little awkward at first — you weren’t in front of a PC screen though, which was definitely a good start!
You seemed so much more like your old self. We were on the call for over four hours, which is a long time. You didn’t get defensive, we talked about stuff. You couldn’t explain why you went about things the way that you did, but you were apologetic and taking responsibility. It was a relief to just be able to talk openly about how things felt without you flying off the handle — your new injection is going well, your cyst is under control, and most crucially you said you’d cut down on the whole online thing.
Also joining a gym and tackling your diet is a great relief to me too. Like with me, you’ve had up days and down days, but you’re making incremental progress. We even talked about him, you said you really didn’t know what was going through your head, but that things had gotten weird with him. You claimed to have blocked him, I don’t think that’s true (Sherlock Bert did surface a little — he’s still on your follow list, interestingly you’re not on his).
Maybe that’s a quirk of how Twitter lists work, but I suspect if you’ve blocked someone they won’t show up on your follow list. I tested it with two of my Twitter accounts, and I’m right, he wouldn’t show up. It didn’t make me angry or sad though, just wary. Also a little bit ashamed for checking. I’ve tried to shut Sherlock Bert up again. Sometimes it’s hard to justify something to someone — particularly if you don’t understand it fully yourself.
There is part of me that was fantasising that if your hormones have levelled off and you’re thinking about the right things, then perhaps there is a way back to where we were. Maybe there is, stranger things have happened, but I’m very very wary — clearly as I’m fact-checking on the sly. I probably won’t mention that if and when we next speak. You even acknowledged the whole streaming thing had gone too far, that the denying of my existence in that world was wrong.
I don’t really know why hearing these things help, but they do — not that I didn’t know all these things already, but there’s evidence that you’re learning from those mistakes. Not necessarily (despite that small fantasy of a happy ever after) for us, but for future relationships. You are still streaming, but less often and not to a schedule — and reading more books. You said you had read Stop Thinking, Start Living which I sent to you and you’d found it really helpful too — which I’m really chuffed about!
But yes, it’s important that I don’t fall into the trap of idealising just as I might have done some demonising before. Somewhere buried in these letters were legitimate concerns about the longevity potential of our relationship even outside all of the unpleasantness. It’s human nature to oscillate between extremes rather than to try to have a balanced and pragmatic view. I’m heartened that I’m aware of this.
We clearly needed that little bit of space to find a way of being able to communicate civilly. Past attempts were a mixture of me trying to understand and alternately lashing out, you beating yourself up whilst still half-immersed in the weird fantasy world that you’d constructed to make lockdown more bearable, you even admitted that, to a degree. I joked that “I told you so!” on the whole online thing, you actually took it as a joke too. I’d never have gotten away with that before.
You confirmed that the odd likes here and there were indeed the kind of virtual water-testing olive branches I speculated about (and since I speculated I guess that means on some level that’s why I was sending them). You still suggested nobody had messaged you even when I told you I’d asked people to, maybe they did but the conversation dried up so it didn’t endure. Communication is a two-way thing, I’ve been getting less check-in messages but I’m also very mindful that I’m not very good at checking-in in reverse sometimes.
I’m going to make a mental note to reach out to those folk who’ve been supportive just to check-in with how they are getting on.
We reminisced about happier times, we did circle round the unpleasantness from a few directions, but it was a decent conversation — we didn’t fall out. We talked about reminders and things, which I guess your train reminder prompted. You’ve not been quite so thorough in me as de-Berting your space, as I noted before you have lots more trinkets and things. Interestingly you’d been avoiding QI before bedtime whilst I’ve reclaimed it, you have avoided Star Wars.
You still have lots of reminders, including photos on display, cuddly toys, even the t-shirt you pinched from me to sleep in once. A few things you’ve had to relocate like my boxing-of-the-stuff exercise, and that’s okay. You had upped your therapist appointments but are back to normal now — again, previously as I was necessarily left to pure speculating I cast doubt on her efficacy or even existence — probably not fair of me really. You said she’d been really helping you.
We talked about your family, they were all really sad when we split up — it sounds like you described us ending as you messing things up but presumably without going into details. Of course, I don’t know what you really said. It doesn’t really matter. On that note as you were with your Mum you told her we were going to have a call so she at least eased the dilemma of my visit down there in a couple of weeks — she told you, which I think is a good thing.
One of the other things I speculated before was that you were hitting Maybe on invitations where we were both invited because of the ‘Bert factor’ — the phrase you used was “I might not be welcome” — I said that was silly, if I was hosting an event then that might be a consideration, and of course if you weren’t welcome in that situation I wouldn’t invite you, but if someone else is host then my feelings on the matter are my problem. But like with the FaceTime call who knows how it will feel until it happens?
With that in mind — our next mutual event is in August — we decided to see about a trial run of being in the same place when I’m down your way anyway. Go and grab a coffee or go for a walk and just see how it feels to be together. Not ‘together’ of course, just in the same proximity. I’m heartened by how easy the FaceTime call was, we were able to communicate like we used to — but since we have an opportunity it makes sense to do a bit of a beta test on physically meeting up.
So yeah, an interesting an unexpected development. It’s left a few randomly conflicting thoughts and feelings, but none of which feel like they’re going to spiral out of control.
- First and foremost, it’s such a relief to see you seem more level-headed and focusing on positive things around health and well-being. I was and am genuinely worried about you and want you to be happy.
- I do feel sad that if the lottery of the hormone injections you’ve been subjected to had landed on this one earlier then perhaps we could’ve been spared all of this. But ‘what if’ scenarios are rarely helpful to think of too much so I’m trying to shelve that.
- You and I both suggested that whilst your methods were reprehensible there could have been underlying reasons / doubts driving your sabotage outside of hormones. Which would mean that bullet-point two would’ve only come a little later (and possibly more kindly). Or even from my direction — I’ve had underlying doubts too for a while.
- I still find you ridiculously attractive and I loved spending some time talking to you like we used to. You were like the girl I loved again, which is dangerous. I’m being very cautious with that line of thinking!
- I’m not entirely convinced of your honesty — which may or may not be unfair — and I think I can be forgiven of that. You will have a good idea of the ‘things I want to hear’ around streaming type stuff etc. and of course there’s the dubious claims of blocking him on Twitter. But then if he has been badmouthing you maybe your own Sherlock Alexandra is in play. It’s not really any of my business.
That’s probably not an extensive list. Overall it was good to clear the air I think, it was great to hear your voice and see your face accompany it for the first time in months, and it actually seem genuinely pleased to see me, for the first time in longer than that! It has planted some seeds of uncertainty around some feelings and has made sections of my brain speculate about different outcomes. I think as long as I am mindful of the tools I’ve learned in dealing with thoughts then that’s okay.
I am unsure how it will feel to be in the same space as you, but I do think it’s better to test that in a less public setting than M.’s birthday party, on some levels I’m really looking forward to that — part of me is nervous about it. They do say your gut reaction is normally pretty good — and mine was that you weren’t well mentally (much as I haven’t been), and weren’t being yourself. I do think that was right.
Overall I am really pleased you seem to be making progress in recovering yourself with some help from a new injection. I had started to downplay the hormone stuff, and it’s not an entire excuse but it is and has been a significant contributory factor throughout our relationship. I really hope that this latest injection is the answer to stabilising that for you. And with all that context you can’t help but idly ponder whether that’s a route back to how things were.
In my heart of hearts I don’t think it is, though. I’m not sure how you feel on that score, we both skirted around the subject a couple of times but didn’t quite address it. I’m definitely working at pushing those thoughts aside as they occur — I am an idealist and a romantic at heart, and, frankly, I’m lonely and scared of finding someone else. The lure of the familiar is strong. But it’s probably not the answer.
I hope (and kind of think that) you are doing okay, Bert