Saying goodbye to an old friend has its own soundtrack. It’s the one you hear when you walk into a smoky bar and someone is playing jazz on a vintage upright piano in the corner. Every moment that is left becomes itemised, noted with clarity so that everything you love about that person will be remembered for good.
I often wish there was a replay feature on life. Not to correct wrongs but so the moments we have truly enjoyed, that maybe we didn’t appreciate at the time, could be viewed again. So we could see those people who are no longer in our lives one more time.
When I heard my friend Ellen was moving to Singapore I got that pang I always get when someone I love is leaving. It is something I have a very hard time with and I think, harks back to me having to leave Scotland when I was a child and not really wanting to go.
It’s hard when someone who gets you up and leaves. It’s even harder when she admits that maybe the leaving won’t work out as it should.
Ellen’s husband walked out on her two years ago in a showering burst of stereotypical behaviour. Merchant banker having an affair with his much younger secretary. It’s been done a thousand times before, right? The fact that it has doesn’t ease the pain. I saw that firsthand with Ellen.
After three months he came back. Skulking like the rat he was. Ellen rang me, not glad to see him. She was settling in to life without him and after the initial shock of his betrayal was coping rather well. She found the shock of his desire for a reconciliation harder to cope with than his betrayal.
Ellen and her husband have had their ups and downs over the past two years but I will admit that even from my point of view as the friend who wants to kill him – he has put in a huge effort. Yet Ellen’s misgivings continue to plague her.
They are moving to Singapore for his work. Ellen is giving up a wonderful job in publishing she has held for twenty years. Their children are being taken out of schools they like and away from childhood friends. None of this need be a negative thing, in fact, something like this should be seen as an adventure; except for one thing. Ellen has lost the trust she once had for the man she always called, still calls, the love of her life.
Whenever he comes home late from work, or is curt with her, or distant, or comments negatively on the way she looks, she thinks of the other woman and wonders….
So many people have said to her leave him if you feel like that. Why stay with a man you don’t trust? He’ll do it once, he’ll do it again.
I say that relationships don’t handle generalisations well. There are too many shades of emotion. One thing that getting older has taught me is to not be judgemental, particularly with regard to relationships. None of us know what we would do in a certain situation until it happens to us.
You should get out if you are in physical danger. Definitely. But what if you are in emotional danger? What if you’ve been hurt badly but have recovered enough to lead a full, maybe even happy life; but sometimes at three in the morning the hurt comes surging back filling you once more with self-doubt?
What if your relationship with your husband is good, maybe better than it was before, and it’s only sometimes that the misgivings assail you? What if most of the time you don’t even think about what he did because you are surrounded by family and friends and familiar places and things you love?
And therein lies the problem. Ellen is on her way to Singapore, her life packed up in crates. Leaving behind all the things that offer her comfort, but also offer her distraction. She is worried she has been pretending she is happy all along and that without the distractions she will crumple. She is worried that getting used to a strange country will be too much and will cause things to fall apart. I am hoping that the sights and sounds of a new land will be what she needs to figure out what she really wants. They say a change is as good as a rest. I also think a change can cause scattered thoughts to coalesce, washing away fear like an advancing wave. I am keeping my fingers crossed.