It has been a wee while since I dillied or I dallied. What can I say – life is rich and full, though time is short. Today’s prompt spoke to my heart however.
I am not sure that it is wise to lay myself as bare as I am most likely to if I follow this through but I am going to take a steadying breath and then go for it…
Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded.
The moment is easy to tell: I am absolutely clear about where and when the greatest decision of my life was made. It was Tuesday, August the 31st, 1999 and in the afternoon. The place was my little cottage, in a village close to Leeds.
The decision was absolutely a life-changer and it changed not only my life, but the lives of four others too. Of the five of us, at least two came out of it very well. I cannot comment on the remaining three, as I have no knowledge of the direction that their paths took.
I have no doubt that I took the correct decision. Had I continued to tread the path that I had been on, my life would have been far smaller and much sadder than it has been.
I do not wish to carry on here, being mysterious and elusive, but as soon as I reveal the detail the reader may well form judgements about me that I may be deserving of… or not.
Shall we go back in a time a few weeks?
Picture me in the summer of ’99. I am a single woman, at an interesting age. I have been married and divorced twice. I live alone now, with my cat .Gif, and I enjoy my freedom but have somehow become entangled with a Man, and have been so for some years. I love him very much (probably more than I have ever loved anyone else) but he is also involved in another relationship, a long-standing one, and it is one from which he is unable to extricate himself. The Man has responsibilities that go far beyond the norm and I am understanding of that. He does not treat me badly, but neither does he treat me particularly well.
He is slowly and surely breaking my heart, my spirit and my will; eroding my self-worth. It is not deliberate, just a product of the circumstance we find ourselves in.
I still love him and would do anything for him.
I hate being the Other Woman.
I am in conflict and it is tearing me apart. I am becoming ill; suffering from a number of stress-related problems.
We discuss matters occasionally. The Man is slightly resistant; reluctant to hear what I have to say. He has his own problems and his own pile of stress – he does not need mine to add to his. I tell him that if the man who is half as good as he is comes along one day, then I will leave him.
I love The Man very much. Very, very much. I can not truly imagine that the one who is half as good will actually appear…
… and yet, he does.
The Man goes away for a few weeks, here and there – five weeks in total. He does not call, does not write – not even a postcard. I am left, suspended. During these weeks, an on-line friendship intensifies.
August Bank Holiday weekend comes around and on Saturday 28th August, I find myself co-located with this friend. It becomes clear just how much we are attracted to each other. By late evening we have given in to the pull and are cuddling and kissing. Friend is now The Other Man, to all intent and purpose, though we have not done the deed.
Now, here is the rub – it transpires that The Other Man is also in another relationship. He goes home to her and I spend a long weekend of anguish and turmoil, mostly consisting of Why me? Why is it always me!
The Other Man is a very nice man indeed. A good man. From all that I know of him, I know that an affair is not for him and it could never work out. I am saddened by this but have my mind made up that it is for the best all round. After all, despite all evidence to the contrary, affairs are not for me either.
Thus we return to Tuesday, where we began, and that moment when The Other Man says to me: “This isn’t going to work, is it?” and I sadly reply, “No, it isn’t.”
I almost do not hear what follows, so deep in my sadness am I – but his response takes my breath away quite literally: “Can I come here?”
Just as anybody else would, I panic at this thunderbolt. I instinctively understand just what he means and all that it implies. It is my turn to ask myself a question… is this OK? I am as surprised as I can be when the answer comes back… it will be fine. So I swallow my panic and I say “Yes.” It probably takes all of 15 seconds and I am sure that for him it feels like a lifetime before I respond.
Arrangements are made for moving in on Friday and this leaves me with a wee problem – The Man is returning on Thursday and I will have to tell him that our relationship is at an end. He has done nothing wrong, nothing to deserve this kick in the gut, and I have not ceased loving him. It is going to be tough.
Tougher than I expect. A brief message from The Man declares him to be too tired to come and see me on his return and he will come to see me on Friday instead. This leaves me the unenviable task of telling him that he has been replaced and that his replacement is already installed. It feels as sordid as the reader most likely finds it to be. Please bear in mind that you do not have the full tale – the reasons, the logistics, the complete heartbreak involved in all quarters and for how long.
The tale has a happy ending for The Other Man and for myself. We remain together and are now ten years married. We have been very happy and have a very fulfilling life. I have never had cause to regret the switch from one who was unable to make a commitment, to one who could not wait to be committed to me. On the other hand, I often think about The Man and frequently wonder what would have happened to me had I not been brave enough to say yes to The Other Man.
It would have been so much easier to have stayed with what I knew. The heartache would still have been there – it is no great fun loving a man who can only give you two or three evenings a week, is never there when you are in need of support, never available on high days and holidays. It was not just a case of love, but one of need. His life was so complicated and awful and the time that he spent with me was a necessary release. I took that away from him and for that I feel both bad and sad. I expect that he plugged the gap fairly quickly though. Perhaps I should not waste too much time beating myself up over it.
So, what would have happened to me had I stayed on the path that I was on and not trod the road that I did take. I would still be working, because I would be supporting myself. I would most likely still be living alone and would certainly still be back in Yorkshire and not up here in Orkney. I am guessing that I would have aged faster; become very unhappy, if not completely bitter. I would have cried many tears that I have instead not shed on various weekends, Birthdays and Christmases.
By now, all these years on, I expect that I would be completely alone… as The Man became too old and tired to live a double life, he would have discarded me… too old myself to start again, too disappointed in life to trust anybody ever again… unable and unwilling to let anybody else in.
I am certain that the gin bottle and I would have become the firmest of friends.
I would probably have a dozen cats and be more than slightly batty.
As for Mr L – had I not said yes to him, he tells me that he could have not survived for long the life that he had been living, so let us not think about what that alternative path would have meant for him.
Generally speaking, I believe that all of our experiences, history and actions bring us the the point we are now at. If we are happy with our lot we may safely assume that the correct decisions have been made and we need not look back or wonder what if but, when you love somebody and you let them go, it is very difficult not to ponder alternative scenarios, or simply just to wonder if he has been well and happy and fulfilled. We can only wish – and maybe blow kisses from afar. Kisses for Sparky.