October 26th, 2014. Paul is leaving today, moving back to New Zealand. It is the final point of separation, and time for me to write a tribute to the man I have loved and lived with over the last twenty-seven years.
A lot has happened over the two years of struggle we have lived through to get to this point. It is impossible to unravel that now – although we try. He asks the questions, I try to explain. But I can’t. I don’t really know. Stuff has happened through the confusion. He has conflicting facts from a hundred contradicting conversations. Much of what I have said looks like lies. Much of what I have done looks like pointless, heartless cruelty. I know it wasn’t that. Or it wasn’t intentional. I’ve said this before. It’s probably not going to ring any truer in saying it again.
My decision doesn’t make sense in any logic-based system. I still love him. He is kind, intelligent, handsome, charismatic; he is successful, a brilliant chef, creative, supportive, even-tempered to balance my scattiness, self-sufficient to balance my volubility; he has wide interests and wider knowledge – a grasp of world affairs, historic significance, themes and patterns and trends, and of the world’s potential future, which leaves me wide-eyed, in awe; he is decisive, gets things done; passionate; a talented and generous lover.
This decision doesn’t make sense at all.
So let’s leave that aside, and look back to see the good of twenty-seven years. There has been so much good. Our beginning was a fairytale of wild, clashing passion brewing from a slow, smouldering start. We knew each other slightly; then I was hit with a crashing sense of destiny, of attraction, of love. It was ten months later we got together, on a beach just outside Christchurch, ten months of me trying to continue to function as I studied and worked and socialised, knowing that only one thing, only one person absorbed me; doing what I could to further that friendship, make a relationship possible; compartmentalising my thoughts of him, because us getting together was so unlikely, and I needed to keep a grip on my real and likely future.
Five months into our realised love story, he left, as was planned, to study in Cambridge. I remained in New Zealand, to put myself back together and stumble through my final exams, not knowing if I would see him again.
Our letters from that time were completely expressive, held nothing back. From here I look young, naïve – not in my love, which was mature and courageous, but in my world-view, my ability to contribute, to find my place and my purpose. Paul carried me through that over the next three decades. He has supported me as I grew and developed and failed and picked myself up again, while he was on his elegantly true trajectory, steady, awe-inspiring, making his huge difference with very little fanfare.
We have lived a full life: varied careers, travel, two beautiful children and many, many friends. We have moved countries six times, lived in New Zealand and the UK and France. France was a realised dream, something we talked about through our years of holidays, renting farmhouses, wandering the streets of Paris, running the language through our minds and across our tongues, thriving in the restaurants and cafes. It felt like home, somewhere to live forever…
I write this and I dissolve into tears. All those years of memories, of beauty, of love and support. Our children are amazing, and Paul has been a wonderful father. They are independent now, each thriving at university in studies and lives that reflect them perfectly individually. This was supposed to be our time – our time to get to know each other, to enjoy each other again. To travel, to explore, to define ourselves in this new phase of life. To make love without looking at the clock. To stare into each other’s eyes over the dinner table and relive our early passion day by day by day.
I step back and see all this as possible still. So near I can taste it. I can’t remember the point I was making. I can’t think of a single human reason for the path I am taking. That sense of destiny has risen in me once more, and guides me forward. I have no sense of direction, of what is immediately in front of me; I just have the strong drumbeat of my relentless heart.
The only thing I can offer now is appreciation. Thank you for every gourmet meal you put in front of me when I would only have found myself a sandwich. Thank you for every cup of coffee you brought me while I was writing, or gazing out the window lost in complex thought. Thank you for your strength when I was crumbling. Thank you for staying with me through my moments of sadness, confusion, displacement – depression. Thank you for bringing me into beautiful environments, beautiful homes. Thank you for taking me around the world and telling me what I was seeing. Thank you for years of brilliant conversation. Thank you for flowing your love to me and through me even when I couldn’t properly see it and didn’t fully understand. Thank you for making space for all the things I tried to do. Thank you for holding me up through my failures, and for not making me feel a failure. Thank you for listening to my dreams and my plans, for trying to understand this hazy vision I hold, which, full of words as I am, I have wholly failed to articulate.
I am sorry. I don’t know why I can’t take you with me, why I have to continue alone. It’s not fair, and it doesn’t honour all you have been to me, all you have given me, all you are.
I will always love you. I want for you all the happiness, all the success, all the beauty, all the love you are suited for, and so richly deserve.