Tuesday, 16 February 2016

This bears repeating...

I just posted this on facebook, and glancing over it again I think it bears repeating here. I've just been reading this article and am left full of thoughts and feelings. It hits me hard, as it sums up something I've struggled with a lot over the years, especially during the last decade since turning forty.

It's been so long now since I was in a relationship that I can barely remember what it actually felt like, making those compromises and sacrifices, and playing that role of tacit care-giver that Laurie Penny writes about. I'm not sure I was ever much good at it.

I've spent years of my life regretting being single, and many sleepless nights struggling with the "what's wrong with me?" question, trying not to settle for the easy "they're all bastards" answer since it has always felt fundamentally false (not to mention mean and petty!).

I fall in love regularly just the same, no matter what's wrong with me, no matter how single I am - sweet gods, I fall in love like a very large brick dropping off a cliff, I am a heavy-weight sharp-cornered effing nightmare when I fall in love - but that falling process has been as far as it has got, for over 20 years now. There has never been a person I could actually have a real, equal relationship with, when I picked myself up at the bottom of the cliff.

Mostly they were long gone. I think maybe they ran like thunder, seeing a brick about to fall on them; and can one blame them, if so?

As time has gone by, and particularly in my forties, I've come more and more to think "Good grief, what on earth would I do if I WERE to find an equal partnership - now, when I am finally myself and have found my own life? Now when I recognise that for me the experience of 'falling in love' is primarily one of losing myself and going slightly crazy for a while?" But the knowledge that I had grown into myself and accepted who I was, which ought to have filled me with hope and certainty, proved instead to be deeply depressing, because it made me fear I was no longer fit for love.

A couple of years ago I began to get to know someone I had known by sight for several years and had always found tremendously physically attractive; and to my immense surprise, this person turned out to be really very interesting. I didn't 'fall in love' straight away as I have done in the past; the brick of my heart stayed peacefully on top of the cliff, taking pleasure as usual in the view over the English Channel. But I began enjoying someone's company simply because it was always enjoyable; this person was intelligent and articulate, kind and mature, witty, hard-working, capable, even shared some of my more esoteric tastes and hobbies and likings. Potentially, then, a good friend; but an attractive one of the opposite sex.

They were also unavailable, and not remotely interested in me as a woman. I knew this from very early on, and it actually helped a lot, in what was for me a pretty peculiar experience. Because as I went on getting to know them, I found myself thinking "IF you had been interested in me and attracted to me, and IF you had been unattached, I could actually have envisaged trying to do the drastic amount of restructuring and rebuilding of my own life that would have been necessary in order to have a relationship with you." And that idea was a hell of a shock.

It really was. Firstly simply because I'd never expected to meet anyone who made me feel that. Secondly because it brought home to me what the other side is of that feeling of being 'no longer fit for love' - the fact that I have grown into myself. I actually no longer saw my self as something I would willingly set aside for a man. I saw - I see - the possibility of adjusting my life around a relationship as something I would need to be seriously rewarded for, where for my entire previous life I had seen the relationship as a reward in itself.

Well, so I grew up. About bally time. I wish I'd been able to achieve this degree of self-knowledge and self-acceptance thirty years ago. Even twenty. But better late than never.

I'm not writing love off. I'm sure I'll fall off that cliff again in the future. It does have its benefits (for a start, I write lots of poetry when I'm 'in love' and some of it is even quite good). I hope I never land on someone and crack their head open, though.

And if someone were to come along who was as thoroughly interesting as the person I wrote about above, the one who wasn't interested in me, I can imagine contemplating whether I would be willing to dismantle my life and rebuild it to include them. Now that I know that's what it would be.

But for now, I am single, and I am no longer unhappy about it except in jest; and that is a lot.


Jules Bristow said...

Oh Imogen. It shouldn't have to be one way. I hope some day someone falls hopelesslessly in love with you because of all the wonderful things that make you you, not in spite of them, and I hope they're as willing to reshape their life to keep you in it as you are to reshape yours around them.

Imogen said...

Thank you! - that's lovely of you and I'm grateful for the good wishes. And who knows what the future might bring? - not me, that's for sure. But I've realised that it's okay, if it is this way; I have gone past the point of saying "I'm alright on my own" simply because one must, and have reached the point where I'm beginning to see it's a truth. I AM alright on my own. And that's something of a revelation to me.

Uneasy Listening said...

Hello, Imogen! Good to have you back. You've been missed...