Bridges Made Unsteady
Attempts to re trace ones path across bridges long since made unsteady by the decay of time, distance and disregarded. I ponder what could have been if I had turned left and not right, gone straight ahead rather than left, moved when I should have stopped, you get the message. So I test the bridge to the past by placing a foot on it and reaching out to be steadied by the hand rail. I hear struts creak and bend, splinters break free and fall into the water with a threatening splash, as if to mark clearly the destination where I will come to rest if collapse occurs. The bridge is rotten and perished through decades of stubbornness, years of false righteousness, ravished by my stupidity in the belief that what has been done cannot be undone. My Angel describes it as my ability to place unwelcome or threatening emotions in a box, put the lid on, secure it and place back into the dark recesses of my mind, never to be aired again. I know she is right that this does not deal with uncomfortable experiences, but I don’t have the skills or the ability to know how to reach any form of resolution about such hurtful issues or circumstances.
So the best way to understand what went wrong is to go back, to cross the bridge back into the past and hope that these boxes can be aired openly, honestly and the content allowed to roam free and dissipate in the air, watching them dissolve away through talk, through being at peace, through admissions of guilt and one’s own wrong doing. One has to reach out with arms wide, to demonstrate how open one is being and that there is no harm intended. So you commence the slow walk across the bridge, one hand gripped tight on the shaking rail, trying to focus on the other side and not the drop, the very real ability for gravity to take control and demonstrate its power to throw bridge and me to the ground at a very uneasy rate of knots.
I am cautious as I feel the bridge creak and shake a little, my mind interpreting it as signs I should not continue but my stubbornness kicks in. The very same mental element that helped get me estranged in the first place, the very stubbornness that took me to this side of the bridge so long ago. In my head I am looking for signs that I am doing the right thing, that this is a path that even God wishes me to take. I ask silently in my head for a sign that this is the right thing to do, to effectively expose myself to hurt and disappointment. I am distracted by how much will have changed as we are talking about reconnecting after a decade or more, can you imagine what changes could have occurred in all this time. I am also distracted with knowing this may be the worst decision of my life, as I could get, as they say, a right old emotional kicking! As these for and against thoughts pass through my head, accompanied by bits of wood falling and splashing down in the water – definitely a sign to go back if I had any sense.
But the commitment is made and I am over half way, I put pen to paper and gather my thoughts, I am somewhat old fashioned and still like to write letters. I find emails far too open to misunderstanding for some reason, texts just too impersonal, but letters convey effort, thoughtfulness and conscious effort to communicate. Anyone can zip off an email or text in a few seconds, but letters and writing cards engages the emotional centres of the mind and traditionally are well received as a positive act. I know what I want to say and just hold my breath for a second as the pen starts to glide over the paper leaving my scribbles behind its motion. I think and weigh up every letter, syllable and word, and end up re starting a number of times to get it just right but eventually I get to the point of signing off, at which point my mind goes blank.
After so many years, a failed recent attempt to reconnect and this being the final effort and act that I can realistically do, I don’t know how to sign it off. This may not be very serious to the reader of this blog but at the point of finishing a letter that leaves me vulnerable enough, finishing it in a way that makes me seem desperate would not be right at all. Equally seeming too distant and restrained would wreck the core of the message – I am stuck on the bridge and cannot move forward or backward and this bridge is about to descend into the valley whether I am on it or not. Then the voice of one of my old mentors speaks to me from the past, and my pen starts again:
“I hope you feel the same way, after all we are family, and you are loved regardless to our state of relationship, love J”
Yes that’s a really good way as I do miss the silly old sod, and I am big enough and old enough to know that I was fifty per cent of this problem, but does he think he is fifty per cent too is the real question? The letter is posted, I have taken a trip back in time, hoping that the contents of the box can be resolved and put aside, as opposed to hidden away. Then the waiting starts, days pass, turning into weeks, now months, every time I hear the post hit the floor I wonder if there is a letter in return, even if it was to tell me to close the lid and move on. But nothing happens; the worst conclusion of all as I feel stupid now, what was I thinking, it affirms that putting things into a box and closing the lid forever is best. This is just emotional torture and just unfair, should I write again, should I call, should I, should I, should I and should I runs through my head over and over again. What the hell was I thinking when opening up an old wound that had healed over a decade ago? Well to be honest I miss my brother very much, it feels like a piece of me died when we became estranged, we were the best of friends, spoke every week for hours, now I haven’t even met his children or his wife of over a decade.
Then we had a chance of making it good and I blew it, was really, really dumb of me and was my fault, but despite many, many apologies the door was shut, I was placed in his box, the lid was shut and I was filed away never to be opened again. But I miss my friend, my brother, so much, I ache to hear his stupid jokes, his rude, crude ways, and I so wanted to get to know my sister-in-law and take up my role as uncle. Then my Father died and I was so angry that he let my Father go to his grave knowing that we were estranged, as my Father was from some of his siblings. But when the anger started to ebb I thought I would try again, I know it’s what my Father would have wanted and what my Mother did want, and so I approached the old bridge of time gone by, wrote the letter and waited as silence descended. I did wonder if I should have phoned but I didn’t want to ambush him, and I really didn’t want to be hung up on or shouted at, I genuinely thought the best medium would be to write.
Now the bridge is destroyed and with it all hope. After all, my Father’s death is so painful I just wanted us to change and spend what time we have left as Brothers, as friends again, but it is not to be. Such an awful waste and utter waste of friendship and love. But it is not all bad, I have reconnected with my oldest brother and his wife, two children and we are getting on really well. We are finding ways of supporting each other and getting through the loss we have felt, whilst making sure supporting my wonderful Mother (who is a dreadful cook). After all she spent her life supporting us – we are there for her now. I just wish we were united as a family to find a way through this hurt, but I guess it is not to be. I hope he changes his mind; my arms will always be open to him.
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