Tag Archives: Gratitude

Letter to the unrecognisable ex

After seeing you again the other day, I am now compelled.

The sadness of the occasion, the shock of you. The way you screwed up your face, like an irritated child, and the bitterness that hardened your eyes and smelt like poison. At times, like hatred.

Who is this imposter? I wondered. Where did the one I loved, and who seemed to love me, go? And where does all this nastiness and conspiratorial mania come from?

I am not sure who you are now. Who you ever were. Certainly, you do not appear to be the bright, funny, incredibly smart and playful person I shared a life with. I understand that you have had your share of disappointments, that I may well be one of them, but that cannot explain what I encountered the other day. None of us are virgins in the convoluted game of suffering, and many of us have responded to our wounds by taking a cautionary step back from the minefield of relationship. But not like you have, old flame.

So much of what I heard saddened me. It sounded not only like retreat, or the donning of armour, but like rancour. Loathing. Of self and of others. Maybe even me and what I represent to you now. It felt like a cut gone septic. The fever having driven you mad. And in place of the beauty that once radiated: persecution, entitlement, the squeal of a hard identity, and the ego-centric mantra of continuous complaint. As though the once adventurous adult had withdrawn into childhood; but without the innocence and wonder. Or is that the child simply gave up on the idea of pretending, and now, exhausted, thumbs its nose, sitting defiant in a pool of its own piss, hoping the stench will drive all the bad people away? (Mother especially.)

I say all this because I cannot believe that you believe the bilious ideology you spouted at me – and I ask myself, what tide of regret has washed you onto this jagged rock? My darling, I’ll say it bluntly – you seemed more object of pity than rebel intellect. More fundamentalist than fearless.

So, I apologise. If there was something about me, or the way our love dissolved, or the manner of our formal separation that either triggered or still contributes to your current state, I am deeply sorry. If I acted in folly or blindness, or was petty and small, I take responsibility. None of us is above reproach.

Yet my sense is that you will regard this letter, and my writing of it, as yet another attempt to control you, or to take away what you seem to think is yours by some kind of right. Yet, I persist because the very act of this missive is my Quixotic attempt to show, by action as much as much in words, that we can react to our various disappointments in a different way. That we can accept the brute fact of aging. Make peace with our smallness. Regard, with a measure of grace, the inevitabilities of human failing. Their cruelties. Lies. Manipulations. The cold wall of their unloving and the ringing heel of their judgement.

I picture you in your bunker, nestled in the dust of pre-apocalyptic zealotry, feeding off You Tube videos…and I know with a jarring certainty that this is not the one I loved. And here, my challenge: how not to let the gap between affectionate memory and evidence obscure the truth, and thereby lure me into the manifold fantasies that take joy and hope and risk and intimacy and bake them into a crust of fear and regret and mean-spirited isolation.

You see, even if your tear this letter up, spit it back out at me as conspiracy and vitriol, I will still be thankful. That I knew you when you shone. And that your newly adopted darkness has served to warn me.

And so, stranger, this may well be the most powerful of all the many insights you have offered me. I will carry it forward, in honour of the one you used to be and the one you may one day find a way to become.

Love letter # 819

Today will always be the day. Corner turned. Stranger looming into view. Eyes in a crowd. Ignition. Nothing ever the same.

What is it – this abrupt transition? Not just the blood in a rush, or the validating gaze of desire. Nor even the magnetic recognition and the promise it contains. Perhaps it is a kind of birth, a world beyond chrysalis. The self reconfigured by the presence of the other. A cell divided, then reunited as someone different.

You appeared and, by an almost instant magic, I vanished – and then returned, at your side, anew. For the brightness had drawn a shadow on the ground; and the shadow had come to life.

Love letter # 495

What I really wanted to say to you on your birthday was that your advent showed me that I could be more than merely self-obsessed and that I did indeed have a capacity for kindness and generosity, and that I too could make a difference in someone’s life. I simply cannot thank you enough for this extraordinary gift.

Love letter # 443

How easy it would be for us not to bother. We could be that couple. We could lapse into blaming one another, or else let the fancy roam. The world is full of younger, seemingly sexier alternatives – charming strangers at parties, the new face at work, the cute student at the checkout. Not to mention the years. The human frailty. The ruthless face of mirrors.

Yet, tired though I am some days, dizzied by the scent of greener grass, I am never more than a glint in your eye away from remembering. There is so much more to this creature called us than the rush of animal blood and a collection of clichés. More than routine and bickering. More than settling.

Though it may appear otherwise at times, I am deeply, profoundly thankful for this. For your part in the chaotically constructed citadel of our lives. I recognise the lure of the various fantasies and the nagging insistence of doubt but, for all the nicks and cuts, the reality is still evident. For better or worse we have made a home together and I for one am in no rush to relinquish the key. I would much rather sit near you again this evening, and wake to your sleepy smile tomorrow.

Love letter # 406

Yes, I get to receive your love, and for this I am honoured and deeply thankful – but more than this, you let me love you and that, my friend, that is where the profoundest, most liberating joy is to be found. For when I am in the act of loving you it is as though I am love. I can only hope that you too get to experience this extraordinary wonder.

Love letter # 457

It was at a wedding. Ten years ago, I think. At some point that day I realised that I loved you; or at least, that my thoughts kept drifting back to you at every moment when I wasn’t directly engaged. I woke the next morning feeling empty, knowing what was missing. Not merely your presence, your closeness, your touch – but what those things represented.

Now I know what it means to be known. To be recognised, to belong. To see another and, in that unerring reflection, to gaze upon the truth of self. Sometimes I experience this as a kind of music; at others as a mode of silence – yet always as the humbling liberation of formless beauty. The freedom that lies beyond the restriction of names. The unity awaiting us outside of the empire of I.

There is no thanks I can either utter or scribe that can fully contain the wave of gratitude I feel when I ponder this hinge in my life. I think back to that wedding, to that time, and I picture you, just around the corner. Waiting for me to notice.