This is something I have grappled with over the last year. When first confronted with the possibility that my ‘truth’ and Alex’s could be totally different I dismissed the idea out-of-hand. In fact I couldn’t comprehend it was possible!
Now I view this in a totally new light. And doing so has helped me understand what happened / is happening.
My marriage is a fact. It happened. 20 April 1992.
Alex left. Fact. February 2009.
We also went on numerous holidays to Southern Africa. Fact. And If I take – say – a particular holiday perhaps I can explain what I think I am getting at regarding truths and facts.
In 2004 we went to Namibia and Botswana. We drove across the northern edge of the Makgadikgadi (pronounced Ma-huddi-huddi) Pans in Botswana. We then turned off down a track which was virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the bush on either side of it. We travelled for several hours, through small hamlets where the ‘track’ vanished. We finally came out onto the salt pans themselves and drove across several small ones, finally arriving at Kubu Island.
Kubu Island is a rocky outcrop covered in baobab trees, surrounded by the salt pans. On one side you can look out to a completely white horizon. A sea of salt. We camped overnight. The wind got up in the evening and the tent almost buckled under it.
All these are FACTS.
Now for the ‘truths’ – these for me are different from facts.
Firstly if I engage with the Adventurer Me.
It was a brilliant day and evening. Slightly scary. We had to negotiate our way through small hamlets of people who didn’t speak English. We felt like intruders into their private space. When we finally found our way through and out on to the salt pans a new kind of ‘scary’ took over. You have to be careful where you drive as the salt crust can hide areas where the earth underneath is soft and can cave in. The trick is to stick with tracks made before you as you know these will be safe. After so many hours of driving it was hard to concentrate. Reaching Kubu Island gave us a sense of real achievement. The island is stunning. The baobab trees magnificent. We climbed to the top of the rocks and looked out at the view. All that ‘nothing’! Amazing. I just love these sort of adventures – really ticks all my boxes – Risk – Adventure – Significance (as in doing something different from most people!)
Now if I engage with the feminine Me:
Alex was amazing. He encouraged me to do the driving so he could ‘map’ read ( the map didn’t really exist!!) and check the GPS co-ordinates he had found. When we were faced with the salt he directed and congratulated me for getting us all the way to the Island. He told me about all the trees and the rocks and how the salt had been formed. He took charge of the fire so we could cook our supper and picked the best spot for the tent. When the wind blew up he staked out the tent so we wouldn’t blow away. I felt protected and cared for and special and significant in this life.
Now the ‘lover’ me:
When the sun went down. The salt turned the most wonderful pink, then red, before the sun vanished over the horizon and the pitch black took over and the temperature plummeted. The effect was spine-tingling. The multitude of stars above us magical. Alex helped me pick out the Southern Cross and told me all about the galaxies.
But. He didn’t hug me, he didn’t hold my hand, he didn’t cuddle up to me. We were two separate beings experiencing this event rather separately. We slept next to each other in our separate sleeping bags – which are actually designed to be zipped together. I think we may have had a brief hug. Sad really. The night could have been so much more special.
Finally if I engage the ‘fearful’ – ‘masculine’ me – the one I really don’t like:
It was hard doing most of the driving – even though I think I’m the better driver.. I could have done with the occasional break. I felt insecure at times. But Alex prefers to read . The tent nearly blew away. He could have chosen a better spot.
The point of all this is? All the above are “true”. They’re all emotions I experienced at the time. By engaging different versions of me I can give myself a different perspective of the event. Put the whole lot together and they become the total me.
I can’t ‘run’ the same event from Alex’s point of view but my guess it could be much the same as mine except for the Lover version: I felt tired that evening – too much glaring at the map and anyway it was very cold. I think she was hoping for more but I wasn’t in the mood and she didn’t do much to encourage me (come to think of it she rarely does – perhaps I don’t turn her on). The failing Protector Version / weak man Version: I don’t think I chose the best spot to camp, I should have taken us round to the other side of the rocks so we would have been in the lee of the wind. I bet she thinks this is my fault and is secretly blaming me……… I feel I failed her.
So what happens when one version of ourselves takes over and ‘kills off’ all the others. The event – holiday – marriage – gets skewed or distorted. I think this is how people ‘re-write history”. What if Alex is only living in the fearful version of himself – the weak/inadequate version – or say the “non-lover” – then all he will remember of the holiday and that magical evening was that it was OK but could have been better.
And we CAN “rewrite history”. We all know people who suddenly sing the praises of someone who has recently died, having disliked them and found them a real pain when they were alive. They distort the past as suddenly they feel guilty for feeling the way they did so it’s more comfortable to do a quick rewrite – maybe to justify the deceased’s behaviour – as it makes themselves feel better – less guilty.
So I believe it is with Alex. To justify his actions, his adultery, the destruction of our marriage, he has “rewritten” or “blotted out” vast swathes of the good times so he feels less guilty. So he can justify what he’s done. But what if he has only managed to do this by living in a distorted version of himself? What if he has ‘killed off’ the lover, the seducer, the adventurer, the man, and has allowed a very destructive version of himself to rule him? What then? Will he ultimately be happy? Maybe for now. But for how long?
That’s why I feel compassion for him.
It doesn’t change what’s happened. It doesn’t change the facts. But it helps my ‘truths’ – and keeps them true for me.