It’s strange to be working on this project, digging through my history like this, and deliberately doing so in a non-linear way. One moment I’m working on something from my recent history, but then there’s something from when I was a wee toddler. It’s a bit jolting, but also a bit interesting. Things surface together which you’d never previously thought of as two pieces of the same puzzle, and you get a moment of actual insight, that rarest of birds.
I wrote a hard piece, titled REGRET, about this girl I knew when I was at university in the 1980s, who I called Laura. In the piece I related what was, and has always been, since the day it happened, a shameful thing that I did to Laura. I wrote of how this thing has shamed me ever since, how it was so bad my psychiatrist tried to help me deal with it. He was able to help a bit. I no longer felt quite so ashamed. He pointed out that Laura had a part to play in what happened, too. She was no innocent. That all helped provide some perspective.
But I still felt lousy about it. It bothered me deeply. It was the one thing I would change if I had a time machine.
I wrote this piece, and laid it all out there. Most of these posts I’m writing get very little response, but some get a lot. This one actually got lengthy, thoughtful comments from women I know on Facebook. They all agreed that in no way had I done anything as terrible as I imagined I had done. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Yes, a woman’s point of view, and from women who had been in Laura’s situation, with those same emotions, gave me a great deal to think about, but I was reluctant to let myself off the hook.
But another friend pointed out another post, the one about me in the theatre class, sitting over to one side of the theatre, away from everyone else, because I was so profoundly uncomfortable and anxious, plagued with terrible thoughts about myself, the toxic residue of more than ten years of schoolyard bullying fused and baked down into sheer psychosis. Where what you see, including yourself, is distorted, but you don’t know the distortion is there. You believe you really are monstrous, that it’s the objective truth of the matter. I sat over to the side of the theatre because I believed I was not fit to sit with the human students. I was psychotic, just like my diagnosis, presented only four years before, said.
This business in theatre class was happening at the same time as the situation with Laura. Laura was in the theatre class. I very likely had placed her on an unattainable shining pedestal. I very likely did not think myself truly worthy of her. I was psychotic, and misperceived her, and myself. I misperceived everything.
This is blowing my mind. I never saw this connection before today. I’ve been carrying this whole story around since 1983. Since I was 20. Since the day I selfishly confessed my unworthy love over the phone, and apologised for doing so, for letting her down. I certainly did not cover myself in glory there. I could have handled it better, in person, but I think the result would have been the same.
And I’d never have met Michelle, the greatest time machine what-if imponderable of them all. What if we’d never met? What if Laura and I had become a couple? I think about these things a lot.