He was the inspiration through which I wrote our song. Together, we lived the Dream ... or so I believed. He the pragmatist, I the poet, I guess that's how our paths diverged and reality kicked in. As soon as life became routine, as the Hunter, he left me behind to seek new prey, a different target on which to tease the ashes of his affection, creating once more a burning fire of new beginnings, new love. He isn't unique in being addicted to the 'Honeymoon Period' of a relationship. It isn't unknown for someone, male or female, to love the thrill of the chase, the start of something new where everything is fresh, sparkling with specialness, like a gift waiting to be unwrapped.
If you were to describe yourself as an object what would you be?
I've used this question as an ice-breaker with numerous workshops in the past, including a host of different kinds of people ... learning disabilities, professionals, people with a range of disabilities, children, offenders, older people. When asked the question, it meant thinking of an object that might describe themselves to others as a form of introduction.
Think about it. Try it on people you mix with and know. Use it as a talking point. You can discover some interesting results ... especially when you turn the question around and ask others to think of another object they think best describes you. You might be surprised at their answers. We don't always project what we hope.
From childhood, I saw myself as the ugly duckling. I remember Mum getting so mad with me, wanting me to see something very different. But then, I was never going to grow up to become the swan, just as the ugly duckling did in Hans Christian Anderson's story. I didn't see me through her eyes. For her, I was always precious, special, loved. She just needed me to know that too.
My only daughter Jo when she was a child would describe me as a teardrop. She'd rarely seen me happy. But more than that, to her I appeared translucent. Perhaps there was a fragility about me, something vulnerable she saw within, a naivety, and yet as a single droplet, part of a larger pool.
In workshops, I introduced myself as being an old battered armchair in a dark corner of the home. People either kicked it as they passed, or else snuggled up close for comfort when they were upset or in pain, loving the familiar safe feel, curling up as if back in the womb. Later, I became a teddy bear with fur worn away long ago from being hugged, arms automatically reaching for more.
The objects I've described speak volumes!
The other day I was talking with a friend. We were asking one another if we were a bird, what kind of bird might we be. He decided a goose, fascinated in their flight patterns and paths, the way they aided one another high up in the skies, or close to the ground, barely skimming the water. It made me think of the way I am now. And suddenly, I knew that my dream ... yes, my dream! ... would be to become a bird of peace, a white dove carrying an olive branch around a world in crisis, which desperately needs its balance restored and to be in harmony with Nature and all that Life means.
In reality, I have to admit that with Life today having become a minefield with so many explosions, so much needing to be dealt with - divorce, finance, feelings such as grief and loss and finding a portal of healing, writing disputes, etc - I feel like a weed, neglected and abandoned, left to grow in a darkened place, perhaps beneath the old oak tree which my father would describe himself as being when he was alive, reaching out his branches to cover and protect and draw me in.
Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce.
Gone are the days, it seems, when couples would sit and talk and share their worries, problems, fears, asking help about things which are wrong. Once upon a time families remained close, supportive, an intrinsic part of the restoration and healing process needing to take place. The older 'Silver Surfers' are turning more and more to the internet and dating sites rather than resigning themselves to live with soul-destroying emptiness, abandonment and loneliness brought on either by bereavement or divorce. It's a New Age answer to an age-old problem. But the older we are, the more baggage we carry from our past.
How many of us are honest and open enough to share the totality of what has gone before?
Hand on heart, I can say I am!
Call me naive if you like, but I don't believe in secrets. I never hold back part of myself when I fell in love. It's the way I was when I met and married Tony. I remained faithful and true, despite his long absences, working away. I became the proverbial Lady-in-Waiting. I never lost that eager, expectant, heart-pounding moment as he walked through the front door and I welcomed him home again. I never took him for granted. Ours was not a dead marriage. There were no ashes from which a phoenix needed to be reborn. It was a fire burning bright as far as I was concerned ... only I didn't know, did I? I wasn't treated with the same decency and respect I had shown. There were secrets on his side, denials, betrayals, untruths, which ultimately led to an email telling me our marriage was no more.
Now as we enter the final phase, today being Valentine's Day, it seems appropriate to write these words, and to bid farewell to the love I once cherished and knew.
I will always love him.
Nothing can take that away.
There is a hole in my heart which once he filled, a hole plugged with so much pain and confusion, loneliness and grief, that I can't see it ever being whole again. Days follow nights, nights follow days in a seamless stream, where a tsunami of emotion can so easily overwhelm, drowning me in an ocean of tears. At night, I awake with a pillow soaked. Lights have to stay on because I'm paranoid. The slightest noise and I'm up, checking the house. Panic attacks cause the room to spin, while sitting on the bed, it's as if I'm trying to step onto a moving carousel. I've long ago lost the point to Life. It has no meaning. I feel so empty and bereft.
The finalisation of our divorce is held up on the grounds of finance needing to be evidenced as being regular. Meanwhile, for him life is sweet. He's moved on, finally living the dream. He's had plenty of time to prepare, leading a double life, leaving me in blissful ignorance until he was ready for me to know what was really going on. All he needs is the divorce, to be a free man. End of. He will never understand the devastation he left behind. For him there is no pain. And I have to ask the question: Did he ever really love me at all? Because this all seems to have started just one year after we married ... or even before. I have no way of knowing, because I'll never hear the truth.
Love can't be switched off like a tap. For me it becomes an endless drip, drip, drip of a leaking heart however much I wish it were otherwise. This past year has been the start of my desert experience - abandoned, rejected, alone.
And yet, miracles can happen!
Over Christmas I received more cards than I have ever received in my life. Veterans I have known for up to twenty years and more sent bouquets of flowers, gifts, food boxes, inspiring letters of encouragement and support, and so much else ... each a gift of the heart. My book was published on 16 December, and they're selling like hot cakes. Just yesterday I had a phone call from New Zealand asking for a hardback copy of RAF 100 Group - Kindred Spirits, and a further six orders came in through the day.
I knew this year I had to get out to meet people or risk becoming a hermit ... oh, how easy that would be! I joined a Lunch Club on a Monday where I receive the only home-cooked meal in a week. Wonderful ... courtesy of the Salvation Army! On a Wednesday, I joined a Ladies Group where we discuss a variety of topics, sharing tea and biscuits together. Thursday afternoons are spent with the 'AgeUK ShowStoppers', a local singing group. I spotted a notice asking for a keyboard player in their window opposite the solicitor, and ended up singing soprano to a whole range of different songs. On Sundays, I attend the Salvation Army service from which I gain valuable inspiration for the week ahead. Inbetween activities, of course, I'm writing ... either keeping up with the daily contact by wonderful veterans and their families, or prepping and writing books. Otherwise, I see the doctor for a regular cocktail of pills which I need both on a mental and physical basis, and a Mental Health Nurse because I had a breakdown. It's a place of safety in which to talk, to lay my feelings bare, and then simply leave them lying in the space between us as I walk back onto the pathway of my Life.
Yet I know if it hadn't been for Tony walking away from our marriage, I wouldn't be doing any of these things. I thought my life was already on track ... a different track. It appears not. So while I wait to see what's waiting around the corner, I continue with the programme of activities and social groups which has gradually built inside my life.
In the Saturday Daily Mail an article mentioned the Ashley Maddison website where all this began. It said that growth in technology was responsible for destroying relationships and marriage. Websites were springing up offering rich pickings on the other side of the fence, luring people away from the familiar to experience something new, being fooled they were somehow missing out. While in truth, people are dying as a result. Countless lives have been lost already in the aftermath of misery and despair as men and women take their own life rather than face the possibility of a lifetime alone.
I understand their pain. I am a very real part of it through my own experience. I feel the most valuable lesson of all is about talking and sharing, finding others to whom the same thing is happening, and to learn from one another ... making something good come out of all that bad.
Valentine's Day at home for me in my growing years was known as 'I Love You Day'. As children, even as teenagers, we would spend hours, days, weeks preparing after the festivities of Christmas. The rustle of paper was endless. Secrets were locked inside the heart. Cards were created, teasing out feelings we knew would brighten one another's day and make them smile, show them they were loved. We'd also buy gifts, small gifts because we didn't have much money. But these were priceless because they came from the heart. There wasn't the commercialism of today. In time, I acquired moulds and made small chocolates which I shared around the family. Before television and the competitiveness of 'bake-offs' I would make a sponge, or orange drizzle cake, or an iced hazelnut cluster ... something to set off the celebrations which would follow.
I miss that today.
And yet, as I entered the service this morning in the Salvation Army Hall, into my hands was pushed a gaily-coloured bag with a wrapped gift inside layered with red hearts, and a card. Someone whispered in my ear: 'Don't open it till you get home!' The service naturally was on the theme of 'Love', and as I stepped through the door of my home after, I vowed I would make this gift-opening moment special. Making a mug of tea, I sat with it on the sofa, gazing softly, already misty-eyed, at the gift given to me with such love. I could guess ... but no! I just wanted to take my time pulling it from the bag, scraping back the paper, like a child on Christmas morning, inching my way towards the secret inside. It was a book: 'I Am With You', by Friar John Woolley, an inspirational classic, filled to the brim with daily uplifting writings. It was signed by the friend who had put the bag gently into my hands: 'To Janine, may these words uplift you with love ... February 2016'. A card was also scribed with loving thoughts; and a small keepsake of words, letting me know I am loved.
The greatest gift: 'To love and to be loved' is always the dream.
Yet often love is right there with us in our everyday lives, perhaps not quite in the way we expect. But in one form or another someone is giving us that message which touches our heart.
Copyright: Janine Harrington, 2016