When I was feeling normal again on Thursday I messaged M, to ask him of his intentions regarding a relationship, because I wanted to know and it seemed like a reasonable time to do it. I wouldn’t say I waited for his reply with baited breath, but a part of me was certainly hopeful, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked. He responded pretty quickly, saying that he didn’t see this going anywhere romantic, but he likes my company and would be happy to continue in a friendship capacity. Obviously there was the initial disappointed reaction to get through, but because I had taken the initiative I had to be prepared for this response, and I was content with the situation within half an hour. A new friendship would not be a bad thing at all; sure, a boyfriend would be even better, but as an adult I can see that it wasn’t my time.
Now, none of that could possibly have happened the day before!
Because it’s been a relatively normal week mood wise, I’m not raging at the moment, like I was this time last week whenever I had to think about my training and the clinical placement I’ve been accepted onto. But the uncertainty remains and I don’t like it at all. I wish they would tell me who my first client is; I wish they didn’t feel so remote and unavailable! The importance of this placement going well can’t be overstated, and unfortunately it feels like the place I’ve got cannot supervise the welfare of all its trainee counsellors. Due to a mistake that they made in December, they’ve taken too many of us on at once, which makes it impossible to have a personal connection with any of them. With my start date supposedly in just over two weeks and no clients to see, I could have been forgotten about. Well, it’s possible!
I was back at college today after the long break, and many of us are starting to stress out about this part of the course now. Those who don’t have a placement yet are worried about finding one; those who do have one are worried about their clients and how it’s going to be managed. Despite that, it was really nice to be back. We genuinely gel as a group, and we can be deeply honest with each other whereas just a few months ago we were still at the stage of niceties. In the PD session at the end of the day, someone started talking about their relationship with their mother, which encouraged someone to talk about their difficulties with their husband. After which another person immediately broke down and admitted that they don’t know if the person they’re about to marry is the person they want to spend the rest of their life with. God, I thought, that’s a brave thing to say. But it’s true, and why shouldn’t it be said?
It does make you realise that it’s not all a bed of roses for people who are in long term, loving relationships. She said quite vehemently that she does love him and she knows she wants to marry him – but whenever she thinks about the rest of her life, she just can’t deal with it. She mentioned having seen a friend post on facebook how happy they were on their wedding day – ‘I’ve found the man of my dreams’ – and it naturally got her thinking. I suppose there’s a lesson there in comparing our private feelings to people’s public facebook posts. The reality for her, and for all of us, is that the perfect person doesn’t exist. When you share your life with someone, there will always be things that get to you, things that niggle at you in the night because they’re not perfect.
I would have liked to play more of a part in the discussion than I did, but I felt a bit of a fraud sitting there considering I’ve never been in a long term relationship and don’t know if I ever will. I didn’t say this to the group – I kept that to myself, although I had been willing to be perfectly honest about other things. Sometimes I do wonder if I’m not in a relationship because I’m too much of a perfectionist, expecting far too much from other human beings. In fact I know that’s probably true to an extent. It must be hard for someone who’s about to get married to suddenly question whether they’re really doing the right thing, but I couldn’t help secretly thinking: ‘well at least you’re with someone’ (I didn’t say that either).
On the positive side, I think the approach I’ve taken to dating recently has been the correct one, and hopefully it will lead to something good at some point. I need to learn to balance my needs against the urge to seek perfection.
My Tuesday meeting went well again this week. I inhabit the role of secretary more and more easily as the weeks go on. Perhaps it helps that the person I was feeling awkward about last year is no longer so awkward to be around. I’ve made small but steady efforts with him in recent weeks, after he made a small effort with me before Christmas, and it seems to be paying off. We won’t be the world’s closest friends, but we can be nice to each other, and I don’t have to feel judged every time I sit in front of him at the secretary’s table. Which has led me to push back my resignation date from the meeting; I now think I can cope with doing it until the end of February. When February comes I will evaluate my feelings on the matter again. The commitment is only supposed to go until the end of May, but I still find it very stressful to imagine carrying on with it that long, so February is my reasonable compromise for the moment.
I’ve come to some private compromise with the Saturday meeting as well: I can go each week, sit at the back, talk to a few people and leave afterwards knowing there are other meetings where fellowship is easier to come by. When my tea commitment finished there a few weeks ago I initially thought I would stop going, but I’ve kept going back for the simple reason that I don’t have anywhere else to go on Saturday evenings. When it came to a choice between going to a meeting that was familiar and finding a new one where I wouldn’t know anyone, it was easier just to go to the Soho meeting. Since it moved from its old home the lack of fellowship at the end has been a big sore point for me, along with the uncomfortable aspects of the new location, but the last couple of weeks I’ve found a way of coping with those things, knowing that it’s better to be there than not be there. Although it’s still a busy area, Soho and Central London as a whole are much more bearable to be in when it’s not Christmas. December was such a difficult month, thank God the holiday period is over. The aggression in the crowds, the mad dashing into shops to find bargain presents, has all dissipated now that it’s 2018.
My grieving process over the old place is far from complete, but I have to accept that a room can’t keep me sober; nor can a building, or an area. When a meeting moves of course it changes, but even when it doesn’t move it still changes. The group that goes to the meeting now won’t be the same in ten years’ time. The people I saw in meetings ten years ago have nearly all moved away or gone back out. It’s one of the hardest things to accept about AA, when secretly I have always yearned for something permanent in my life. There’s the odd face that you always see around, the one that’s always been there and will undoubtedly always be there, but those aren’t the people I tend to get involved with and cling to. My closest friends in AA have been the ones that didn’t stick around. And I’m sure that will continue to be the case, because we can’t predict where any of us will be in five, ten years’ time, who will stay sober and who won’t. That’s the impermanence of life: one of those things I refer to as part of the ‘grey areas’ because it isn’t good or bad, it just is.