The knights who say no – part 2

There’s nothing like a bit of people-watching, fluffy magazine reading, or supermarket psychology musing, when you’re idly sitting on a beach… Which is what I did in copious amounts over my recent holiday, leading to the previously dazzling profiles of my exes.

Anyway, huhuhu, next instalment (hold-on to your seats, a psychology Nobel prize might have to be created): I have brilliantly worked out something T, Mr Nice and Mr Xmas all had in common.

They really fancied themselves as knights in shiny armours, rescuing a hapless princess.

How they thought it would be 1

The thing is that T, Mr Nice and Mr Xmas don’t really like themselves, and conversely really liked the idea of being knights in shiny armours, especially family knights, because it would make them feel all saintly, worthy and good.

how they thought it would be 2

Needless to say that I am no hapless princess, but a perfectly capable one thank-you-very-much, even though I admit to some degree of fraying around the edges.How it really was

So family knights they became, which was quite nice, if I’m honest.

how it actually was 2

Until they worked-out that being family knights was not exactly how they had imagined it based on, you know, car and holiday villa adverts…

In fact, being family knights turned out to be quite hard work and boring after a while, because you can’t really go out every night as you please, there may be nappies to change, pesky people wanting your attention even when you’ve had a hard day at work and just want to collapse on the couch to watch game of thrones and eat pizza out of the box. That sort of unbearable disappointment.

Meanwhile, I’d wanted a boyfriend, not a hero, and strongly believed relationships need constant tweaking so that everyone’s needs can be met; so it wasn’t like I had them chained to the stove or banned from having their own lives.

Still, the car-advert promise was shattered, disappointment set in, and they started resenting being family knights, as well as feeling bad about themselves for failing to be heroic.

And because feeling bad about yourself is no fun, they eventually had some kind of brutal a-ha moment when they decided that in fact, our relationship was the source of all evil and must be disposed of rapidly.

Clever clogs.

The end

So there. I seem to attract men who convincingly really, really, really like the stability and security they see in me, as well as the idea of having a family with me, but end up saying “actually, you know what, I don’t think this life fits me, feels a bit too tight, makes me look kind of bloated… Can I send it back to the shop?”, which is when I say something to the effect of “No bloody way. We’ve had a baby together / blended families / moved in together. This is not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty”

Voilà.

So what does that teach me for the future? Mmmwell, I’m not quite sure… That I should steer away from men who like the idea of family life? That I should never ever have a baby / blend families / move in with someone who really, really, really likes me ?

Err…, have you got any slightly more convincing lessons to suggest?

Once a scientist…

Dusk stretches for an eternity.

Birds circle overhead, the scent of jasmine wafts around the garden.

This is my favourite time of year.

I feel tired, pretty sad, and very hollow at times. But all things considered, I haven’t stopped sleeping and started losing 10% of my body weight (a shame really, because I would look better in my bikini for the Summer ), which is what I normally do post-breakup.

Ok, I am snappy with the kids, have low energy and trouble concentrating at work or feeling optimistic about the future. But somehow, I still kind of function, and hey, I can even smile at times!

Importantly, I don’t feel as much of the physical, ripping pain of heartbreak.

For the first time in my life, I accepted to take a course of lightly-dosed antidepressant to get me through the emotional shock. It tastes revolting, but let me tell you what, it is like getting an epidural when giving birth: Why on earth did I ever do without before?

Anyway, my mind wanders…

If you were to consider the period 2008-2015, and plot my breakup trauma intensity with T, Mr Nice#2, and Mr Xmas as a function of time on a log scale, I guess you’d get something like this:

log scale

First, that’s an average of one major break-up (I’m not placing Mr Nice #1 in that category, let’s just call it a minor rehearsal) every 1.9 years.

Which I guess, may even be a respectable performance, if Major Breakups were an olympic sport.

Now, if we were to plot a regression line, and hypothesise that I will keep on the same trend, we could basically extrapolate that somewhere between 2021 and 2022, when I experience my n+3rd major breakup, I may perhaps check my nails, before carrying on writing the shopping list… regression curve Hmm

Weather

Overnight, the-30°C-blue-sky weather has turned to rain, mountains all but vanished into the clouds. Exactly the kind of overnight change, which seems to be all the rage in my Summer-Autumn 2014 life collection…

Three months ago, my two children and step-son all feverishly bickered over Panini stickers for their football world cup albums, while Mr Nice mourned France’s demise in the quarter finals (which was obviously solely due to undeserved bad luck – nothing to do with skill). The school year was in its dying days, and everyone looked forward to a fairly predictable Summer of family fun at the beach, catching up with relatives, and general winding down.

But then, the weather refused to acknowledge that Summer had arrived, and remained sullen, cool and wet.

Mr Nice flipped. In the space of weeks, what had once been us, became an empty shell.

Two months ago, on a beautiful sunny day, we called it a day, turning both ours and the children’s lives upside down.

Overnight, Mr Nice became a peculiar stranger. I struggled for breath.

A month ago, as Summer refused to give way to Autumn, a steady pair of arms caught me for what must have been the hundredth time as I fell apart.

And I decided to stay there for a while…

To Mister Xmas

Fauve – Lettre à Zoé

Somebody I used to know

Sunflower by Lady EThis week, I have reduced Mr Nice to tears, and seen T shrivel under my gaze.

No, I haven’t done a crash course in karate and beaten both of them to a pulp (yet), but yes, things have been flirting with the surreal.

Mind you, this in itself seems to fast be turning into the new norm, in this period of brutal change and grief.

After a glacial encounter with Mr Nice, which left me feeling at best like some random stranger trying to sell him double-glazing, at worst like I did not exist at all, I started reliving the exact trauma I went through three and a half years ago, when T brutally turned into some sort of terminator, inflicting pain, and systematically erasing any trace of the life we had once shared.

This particular style of violence left me feeling broken, with a sense of acute disorientation, and questions about my own perception of reality.

This time, something in me flicked and searing pain turned into blinding rage : How dare these people, who once loved and respected me turn me into no-one, and get away with it because their own guilt is just too much for their delicate shoulders ?

Outrage simply propelled me onto a mission to spread the joy. First, I called Mr Nice and told him exactly how I felt about his behaviour, and how to make things worse, I could not tolerate to be treated like a stranger. If only for a few minutes, I confronted him with the alternative reality of our separation, and that felt good.

Yet I wasn’t done with my bout of super-hero-puts-world-to rightedness.

I summoned T, sat him down and watched the faint air of worry spread over the handsome features I no longer love. Then, I simply told him about the pain I had felt when he left, about my fear, anger, loss, about what I went through, what the children went through, how to this day, we behave like strangers and it is incredible to think that we once loved each other enough to want a family together, and I’d had enough of that. For three and a half years, these things had been stuck unsaid somewhere in my windpipe, yet for three and a half seconds, I got a flicker of the old T, a glimpse of understanding and misery.

Confronting both men left me empty, but something is emerging from the rubble, a need to speak out and no longer quietly let people hurt or mistreat me.

While it is one thing to leave a relationship you no longer want to be part of, it is another to walk away from the destruction without a look back. No matter how tough the guilt is to bear, no-one should feel dispensed with the responsibility of showing compassion.

Ha.

Right, I’ll put my cape back onto its hanger and get the dinner on.

Gotye- Somebody I used to know

Abandonment with a side of imperfection and dependence

Pattern painting by Claude Viallat

Pattern painting by Claude Viallat

Ah, the joy of post break-up soul-searching… Wailing why, Why, WHY at your indifferent bedroom walls  wondering what happened, where you went wrong, and what you should to do better next time. Stopping to retch a bit at the mere suggestion that there may be a next time. Vowing to remain celibate for the next 20 years…

In come friends and well-meaning people, flooding you with looks of pity, advice and self-help books. You smile weakly, and wish they’d opted for strong alcohol instead.

One lonely evening, as sleep eludes you once more, you reach out for the nearest book: Reinventing your life by Jeffrey Young and Janet Klosko. The title alone smacks of pure self-helpish bollocks sounds ominous, but after the first few pages, something unusual happens: You are forced to admit that actually, it is quite interesting, and even that you kind of want to know more.

Now, rest assured that my general attitude towards self-help literature remains one of barb-wired caution, but still, I am currently enjoying a little journey through the various patterns -also called schemas- we develop in childhood, and which tend to ruin our lives perpetuate themselves into adulthood.

There is something for everyone on the book’s menu: From exclusion, to distrust and abuse, vulnerability to high expectations. There are 11 to pick from, and if you’re particularly lucky, the battery of little tests will reveal that you are personally plagued by half a dozen of those delightful patterns.

Subsequent chapters guide you towards understanding why patterns form, how they affect your life, and what you can do to free yourself from their destructive side-effects.

Much of what I read about my patterns was new and rang true. I realised why I do find being single so uncomfortable, feel attracted to men who offer a mixture of hope and doubt, but never the certainty of stability. Why I harbour a ridiculous, but firmly-rooted belief that no-one could love me if they truly knew me.

The strength of the book is to acknowledge the patterns’ variety of origins (it is possible to suffer from an abandonment pattern, even if you were brought up by two well-meaning parents who never really abandoned you), and the difficulty of breaking them, but at the same time offering an encouraging, baby-step kind of approach to succeeding.

Its down-side is what I probably unfairly see as being over-simplistic: The examples presented tend to focus on individuals who are only -and quite extremely- affected by one pattern at a time, when in reality most of us drag not just one mammoth-sized piece of luggage, but a variety of assorted carry ons that manifest themselves in specific circumstances.

So mine’s a large Abandonment, with a side of Imperfection and Dependence, what’s yours ?

I’m going through a bit of a Lilly Wood phase at the moment:

Lilly Wood and the Prick – Where I want to be (California)

Skyfall

Cumulonimbus by Lady E

Where you go I go
What you see I see
I know I’d never be me
Without the security
Of your loving arms
Keeping me from harm
Put your hand in my hand
And we’ll stand. ” (Skyfall – Adele)

Suddenly, words stab,  the air is knocked out of my lungs, my eyes swim. I cannot remember who I am, feel like running, screaming,  dissolving into a sobbing heap. Instead, I sit very still, fingers moving automatically across the frets as my guitar teacher carries on singing.

Heartbreak is a cruel despot, with a knack for making you pay when you dare forget about it -if only for a few minutes.

Today, as I concentrated on getting that tricky Bm7 chord right, it sternly raised an an army of still warm memories of the dozens of other times I played Skyfall, of Mr Nice sprawled on the sofa, singing along or watching the football, smiling crookedly after yet another outburst against the referee.

I go about the days, stiff with fear of heartbreak’s absurd rule, avoiding any thought of the past or future, pretending to ignore that my new present feels miserably tight and scratchy.

Outside, the mountains tremble in a haze of heat, clouds rise and children squeak. Bigger things are happening.

We finish playing Skyfall and I hazard a breath as we move on to Pharrel Williams’ Happy.

Light

Light by Lady E

Light by Lady E

I hang up the phone and close my eyes. When I re-open them, I finally see the trees, volley-ball players, families strolling, and clouds shifting across the late afternoon sky.

I am sitting in a park on a busy Saturday afternoon. Mr Nice and I have just been discussing the fineries of our relationship’s funeral : Next week, we’ll tell the children.  We will let them enjoy the afternoon together, before letting them know of our decision to separate. To soften the blow – in as much this is possible when you are robbing someone of much of the stability and safety in their lives, we also decided to make sure they could still spend time together and count on both of us.

How this will work in practice is anyone’s guess.

For the first time in over a month, I have been talking to the Mr Nice I used to know, rather than some spaced out version of him, and this man is lost, desolate, wondering how a relationship which has been giving him happiness and stability for a couple of years could suddenly become something he does not want.

I feel immensely tired.

I get up and start walking towards the light.