This morning I went up the road to see my friends J and K. Because I was away last weekend, I haven’t seen them for 2 weeks. It was good to catch up, and take them an apple pastry I made this week.
When I arrived I was talking to J, he handed me a hardback book with a central cut out revealing a picture of a shell. My heart started pounding, I felt the sweat prickle and my hands tremble as I opened the book.
It was a photographic record of the holiday we went on in August 2016. J and K and their son, then 16. My ex P, myself and my two younger sons, then 11 and 14 went to an island paradise for a weeks break .
This was my first sober holiday when I was about 5 months into my sobriety.
The day after we got back I ended my relationship.
the book was created for J and K by my ex Partner and delivered to them via a mutual friend.
In the last few months I have made great progress in closing the door on the past. I have not seen my ex since early December 2017, and I have not replied to the last email he sent me in February. I have not replied because there is nothing for me there.i can never forgive the things he did, and I do not need someone so toxic in my life. He cannot accept his part in the relationship failure, and my conversation with his ex wife confirmed the behaviour patterns I experienced were long standing, deliberate and the results of a manipulative dishonest personality with no integrity.
The book was beautiful. So thoughtfully prepared with photographs of us doing stuff, swimming cycling, eating, there are pictures of the flora and fauna of the island and all carefully curated to tell a story. The last photo of J and K together, brought tears to my eyes, it’s so poignant.
So why has he sent this book to my closest friends at this point. And why am I so thrown by it?
The straightforward answer is that he said at the time he would do this, J is very ill and likely to die soon, it’s a nice thing to have done.
But it brings up all sorts of emotions in me. It shows off a kindness, a consideration for others. It demonstrates keeping a promise and fulfilling a commitment even though he hasn’t seen J and K for at least a year. I don’t want to be reminded of these qualities. I had been quite settled in my decision to cut all contact, certain that it could not benefit me in any way … and then this.
However, I have learned something in the last months. I have learned that shutting off my emotions, keeping them to myself is the road to greater problems. So I summoned up courage, confided in my friends how confused and difficult I found this gesture, and we talked about it. In the exchange I saw the courage, compassion and connection that Berne Brown identified as key to wholehearted living, I felt the care and love from my friends, I heard their thoughtful counsel and I talked much of my emotion out. By stepping outside my comfort zone and allowing them to see my tears and discomfort, I was rewarded by their compassion, genuine empathy and good advice. I felt less alone and more able to cope with the temporary ripples Caused by this book
The cynic in me, and I expect my brother and my therapist would take this view, says that he has noted my complete disengagement, and used this opportunity to present the better side of himself to try and re-establish contact with me. He will have known that J and K would show me that book, and he would know that, soft as I am, it would move me. Not just the gesture of creating the book, but the memories of the holiday and the reminder of his creative talents.
J had already made the decision not to invite my ex Partner to see him, and his view, as another man, was very valuable to me.
So a few hours later I have partly regained my composure. I have resisted the urge to contact him, and I believe the emotion associated with this incident will settle, as long as I don’t close it down.
I do feel unsettled, he is on my mind again, and a small part of the intense love I had for him has been reignited … a small part of the hope I carried, and a lonely lost part of me has woken up … I believe this will be temporary if I do not act on my impulses. But it has taught me a salutary lesson; I have come a long long way since August 2016: but I’m not over him yet.