In what seems like the blink of an eye this is what happened. I was not ready for it, but I hung on tight and rode the roller coaster doggedly until the end. Absolutely fucking exhausted, and a completely different person to the one who strapped himself in at the start of the ride, I sit here breathing deeply and wondering what happens next. Let me explain…
Almost thirty years ago I met the most wonderful girl. She was smart, funny, beautiful and fun to be around. She was someone this shy boy felt comfortable with, and we could talk without running out of things to talk about. This was almost the perfect picture, but there was one inconvenient problem; this girl was my best friend’s girlfriend. Like the classic third wheel I spent time with them whenever invited, and enjoyed being in their company. It was a safe relationship I guess, in which I could have my secret little crush and nobody need know. The problem is, you really can’t have a secret crush on someone when you spend a lot of time around them. Eventually they work it out, and then it either gets awkward or it gets acted upon. My friend had to rush home suddenly when his mum passed away, and we acted on it.
I’ll say officially that he never knew, never found out, but he did. He knew me too well and could see that I was smitten. Being interrupted by him whilst engaged in a passionate goodnight kiss just outside their front door must have been a strong hint.
Anyway, they managed to get through that incident, I backed off and so did they; all the way to London for a working holiday. We kept in touch by snail-mail over those eighteen months. I received their news of Paris, Rome, Porto and disastrous road trips, and replied with my news of nothing happening back here. Her best friend travelled to London for her own holiday and joined them to share the rent of their little flat. Turned out that my friend developed a crush of his own on the new flatmate / girlfriend’s best friend and things again became awkward. I can only assume there were some harsh words as the next thing I knew, my friend and his girlfriend’s friend had returned from London and were apparently ‘flat-mates’. His girlfriend had decided to remain in London alone. Are you keeping up?
A few months later I was asked to be a groomsman in my friends wedding, and another month later wonderful girl mentioned above returned from London. It was March. We caught up for a drink and for old times sake. On her birthday two months later I proposed, and in January we married.
What happened next was a blur, but it was something like four children arriving over the space of seven years. We bought and extended and further renovated a family home, at the same time sending aforementioned children to exclusive and very expensive schools. I worked hard and miserably in well paid jobs I hated, and my beautiful wife worked weekend nightshifts ensuring there was no chance of meaningful communication or ‘quality time’ for us. The value of our house rose admirably, as did the mortgage as we sent away whatever equity we had in the form of school fees. I did manage to escape the rat race briefly by purchasing a business, and loved the flexibility this offered. My mistake; I loved the flexibility I thought it would offer, but unfortunately found myself trapped in eighteen hour days to ensure the business made enough money to keep our mid sized economy ticking over. Eventually and predictably everything turned to shit and I was admitted to the psych clinic after a nasty breakdown. The business was eventually sold and I managed to get another well paid job, this time in a slightly different field doing something fun and challenging with people I liked. Sadly this lasted not nearly long enough, and office politics caught up and put me back into a role that I hated.
Along the way something unexpected happened with the children. They grew up, completed high school and left home to move across the country. We were that textbook couple who then looked across the table and said “do I know you? You look somehow familiar but I don’t know anything about you”. We decided we didn’t really know each other, so my wife went to join the kids on the other side of the country, leaving me alone in a job I still hated which I now seemed to be doing for no good reason other than to support my family’s distant life change.
In a moment of epiphany I decided not to follow this traditional route mapped out by so many couples before us, and proposed to my wife that she return and we work on creating a new and better future, without the crap that caused us to split apart. Hell, there was a time we were absolutely smitten and surely we could rekindle some of that magic. Her own dream of a new life in a new city, building a wonderful new life with the children had actually turned to shit, so the timing was good.
After a few volatile weeks we have managed not to murder each other, and have made it to our very first counselling session. There may yet be hope for us. Not much rekindling to report just yet.
What I had actually meant to do today was draw up two lists; One list is to show all the things I would like to do with my time, and the other would show what I’m actually doing. In consultant speak they might be called the ‘as is’ and ‘to be’ lists, to which you then perform a ‘gap analysis’ followed by a ‘transition plan’.
My ‘to be’ list would contain such things as: Play guitar, sing, volunteer with suicide prevention / homelessness / addiction recovery / mental health organisations, public speaking, writing, travel to Ireland to meet my birth mum, open water swimming, triathlon, marathon running and yoga.
My ‘as is’ list looks like: Work in a job I don’t enjoy, waste most weekends by doing very little towards my goals.
Clearly I have plenty of scope to construct both my gap analysis and transition plan. In a nutshell, and without the expensive assistance of consultants, they could be summarised as “Your gap is wide” and “Stop wasting time and get on with it” respectively.