Sunday, February 26, 2012

The consequences of the past

The distant past came calling this afternoon via email from a man I was in a committed relationship with 35 years ago. We had a difficult ending to our relationship, one I describe in a chapter in my memoir. He had emailed me last year asking for a way to get his hands on the book (, I told him) but I never heard anymore from him until today. I knew he wouldn't like what I had written about him. Although I worked very hard at taking full responsibility for my part in what happened, it was ugly and it's never just ugly on one person's part, not when relationships last 6 years.

Three things struck me about the letter. How much he focused on some small details that were left out, details about him: how he made all the money and supported me, how successful he was, how much good he did in the community. All of that was true but not the story I was telling, not the story of my inner life. How differently he remembered the critical events in our relationship, from timing to location to how information was communicated. (He must have missed the part in the introduction where I clearly stated that this was in no way the truth, only my memories). And, lastly, while he acknowledged his part in it, there was no real apology, no accepting of responsibility, just blame. The letter was clearly meant to justify his actions and blame me, once again, for what had happened. There was no space for interpretation, for difference in memory. He was right and I was wrong.

And when I first read it, I fell into that space I had lived in for those years with him. Of apologizing even when it wasn't my fault. Of tiptoeing around his temper. And yet a part of me can clearly see what he still doesn't get, what he still doesn't understand about living with someone with active alcoholism.

I sent a brief reply. Said I hoped he had found healing in writing the letter and that I apologized again for any harm I caused him. And now I let it go.

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