Thursday, December 15, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 26 - Farewell

This is the end! *sniff* I never imagined what a long, wordy journey I'd ben taking when I started this in July of 2010. It was a labor of love, though, believe me. Thanks to all of you who took it with me. Your support means the world to me.


Saturday, December 11

Dear Tanya,

It feels strange to be writing to you now after all this time. It’s been nearly three months now since I stopped. But Dr. Brennan thinks that I should write you one last time and give you my final farewell. It’s part of my therapy -- symbolic more than anything else at this point, but she thinks it’s important. Maybe it is. She hasn’t steered me wrong so far.

I wish I had known about her when you were still alive. If I had ever gone to Dad for help back then, I might have. But no, I was almost as stubborn as you were. We were both so hell-bent on being independent and doing everything ourselves, the last thing we ever wanted to do was turn to our parents. I can’t help but think that if you had seen the right kind of psychotherapist -- someone as patient and kind and clear-headed as Norma -- you might still be around.

I spent years and reams of paper turning those kind of “what-ifs” over and over in my mind. If only you had done this; if only I hadn’t done that. I addressed all those vain conjectures to you as if you could somehow change what happened, or at least explain it. I knew all along that the dead tell no tales. In truth, many of those “letters” had nothing to do with you, and I’m sure you know that. That was especially true after I met Bella. My journal was just an attempt to make sense of my life after you turned it upside down.

I know now that there are events fate throws at you that you can never make sense of. All you can do is pray for the strength to deal with them, and hope that you have good people around you to help you get through them.

I wish you had felt like you had that in your life. You did, you know. Even though I didn’t love you the way you wanted me too, I did want to help you. I would have been there for you if I had only known how. I can’t tell you how sorry I am for the last words I said to you. You know that if I could take them back, I would. Wherever you are, I hope you can see that I didn’t mean them. I was angry and frustrated and I said things to purposely hurt you. We both did that night, and so many nights before that.

Looking back, I realize how young and immature I was. I was as ill-equipped to handle your mental and emotional issues as you were. I wish I had turned to my father for help, but I was too proud. And when you did turn to your father, he was too proud to admit you had a problem. I wish he could have seen the truth before it was too late. I feel for him, I really do. He’s living in a personal hell of his own making. He blames me because he can’t shoulder his share of the responsibility in what happened to you. And the truth is, we were all culpable. We all made mistakes. Now we have to live with the consequences.

I guess the difference now is that I’ve decided to stop making myself pay for those mistakes. I don’t know if I can fully forgive myself for my part in your death, but I can’t continue to take the sole responsibility for it. I used to think that if I did, the punishment would be enough to finally assuage my guilt. I never wanted to listen to Alice when she reminded me that you had free will, and I couldn’t have stopped you from exercising it. And I never wanted to hear it when my father told me I was throwing my life away along with yours after I quit school. But they were both right. Wishing you had been in a better frame of mind won’t bring you back, and putting my own life on hold won’t, either.

Bella hit the nail on the head when she said that the mental illness took your life. When she uttered those words, I realized that I was finally ready to put the blame squarely where it belonged -- on a disease. Not on me, or your father; not even on you. We were all victims. I’ll never stop wishing we could have gotten you the right kind of help before things got so bad. But wishing won’t make it so, and beating myself up over it won’t accomplish anything except to waste another life. I don’t know how much I have to offer the world, but I’d like to think I can make a difference somewhere, to someone.

You made a difference to me. I want you to know that. I still remember the good times, you know . . . when you were vibrant and full of life and fun and mischief. I wouldn’t change any of what we shared. I’m grateful for all of it, even the bad stuff. I don’t regret you, or us. You mattered to me, and I hope you knew that when you were alive. I hope you know it now.

And even though I couldn’t save your life, I made a difference in Bella’s, of that much I’m sure. When she came to Emmett and me for help, her issues were more severe than I ever imagined. I didn’t know if we would be able to “fix” her, but I wanted more than anything to rise to that challenge. I knew my life had purpose when I worked on her. Of course, I didn’t find out until later why I was so drawn to her, and why she affected me so deeply. But I was filled with the conviction that I was put here on this earth to save her after I failed so miserably with you. What I didn’t know then was that she was meant to save me, too.

I wish I could have done that for you. Or that you had stuck around long enough to find the person who would be to you what Bella is to me, and I to her. All I can do now is to live my life more consciously, and be the kind of man in the present that I wish I could have been in the past. It’s the only way I know how to honor you now that it’s too late to ever truly make amends.

I’m still not sure what I believe of heaven and hell, or whatever lies between. I know that Bella believes her mother is in heaven, keeping watch over her. If there is some kind of afterlife or alternate world we go to after we die, then I hope you can see how I’ve tried to change as of late. I think that would make you happier than me punishing myself over and over for my shortcomings with you. You already know how sorry I am, and how impotent and angry and frustrated I felt for so long. The time finally arrived for me to let it all go. Not to forget -- I’ll never forget. But to forgive -- myself, you, our doomed situation.

I stopped writing to you when I realized I was ready to move on. I have moved on. I hope you don’t begrudge me that. I lived in my self-imposed prison for so long that I hardly know what to do with my freedom now. I’ve tried to put it to good use. I’ve registered for the spring semester at U-Dub, still majoring in pre-med. I’ll be working part-time as a massage therapist, then taking afternoon and evening classes. I know it’s going to be hard work, but I’m ready for it. I’m ready for my next challenge.

I won’t be alone at UW next year. Alice decided that being closer to Jasper was as important to her as her career, so she’s transferring next semester and completing grad school here in Seattle. She had considered doing that anyway because of their pediatrics program, so her decision didn’t come as much of a surprise to me. I know how she feels about Jazz, so this is a win-win for her. For Jasper, too. He’s a man of few words, but I could see how much he missed my sister while she was away. Can’t say I blame him. I would never be able to withstand any lengthy separation from Bella.

She and I are pretty inseparable these days. She still has her own career, of course, and it’s thriving. The Wolf Pack just finished recording and are playing bigger venues around Seattle; their CD is due out in the new year. And Vegan Vamps are in the middle of a nationwide tour, promoting their first CD. Bella and Rosalie have managed to iron things out, for the most part. We all have to co-exist peacefully since Emmett is so gone on Rose. To be fair, she’s pretty enamored of my brother, too. Sometimes opposites attract. One thing I’ve learned is that love is unpredictable, and it usually hits you when and where you least expect it.

I certainly wasn’t looking for Bella when she walked into my massage room that day six months ago. I fought her with every fiber of my being at first. I wasn’t ready to change; wasn’t willing to let go of the past and welcome someone new into my life. Someone who actually mattered -- someone I’d want to invest in again.

But now I can’t imagine my life without her. I miss her when she’s not around, and I know she misses me, too. She tells me so all the time, in our diary. Weird, I know -- the two of us keeping a shared journal like that. But it’s been a surprisingly good thing. We write mostly when the other isn’t around, but then we’re free to read each other’s entries later. Sometimes it’s easier to put things in writing than to say them to each other’s faces.

You’d think that would be a great way to start fights, wouldn’t you? That we’d carelessly put something down in print in the heat of the moment and then regret it later. But it’s actually had the opposite effect. We feel better when we get things off our chest, and later we often laugh about our grievances after we’ve had time to cool off. We don’t fight much, anyway. And when we do, it’s always about little things. Bella’s constantly rearranging my kitchen and then I never know where anything is, on the rare occasions I actually want to fix myself some food. And she always acts annoyed when I want to have sex in the morning, because she says I make her late to work. Granted, she does have a little further to drive to the office than I do. But I don’t really believe her protests because she’s as turned on by wake-up sex as I am, despite her claims that she’s not a morning person.

I guess I shouldn’t be telling you these things, should I? I’ve strayed far from the point of this letter. Or maybe I haven’t, really. Because one of the things I wanted you to know is that I’m happy now. Bella and I make each other happy in a way that you and I never did, and never could have.

I’m not saying this to hurt you. I’m just stating that what you wanted from me was something I never could have given you, regardless of your bipolar disorder. I truly wish you could have seen that there was so much left for you here in this world -- a whole life beyond me, beyond us. I’d give anything for you to have lived long enough to discover that like I have. I wish you hadn’t sold yourself short. But I’ve learned that selling myself short in penance is no solution; no way to live.

And that’s what I want to do now. Live. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, and be happy for me. Even when I was furious with you, I wished you only the best. I still do. I pray that you’ve found the peace that always eluded you when you were alive. If Bella’s right, and there is a heaven, then maybe you’ve found it and you’re in a much better place now. I hope that’s true.

Maybe you can meet up with Bella’s mom and watch over us tonight. Bella’s going to perform for the first time ever, at an open mic night at Billy’s. She’s not doing it alone, though -- we’re going to do a duet together, the song that I wrote for her. Alice just got back home yesterday, so the whole gang is going to be there to support us. I’m really excited about it, because I know Bella will do great.

She’s mildly terrified, of course, even though I reassure her at least once an hour that she’s going to be fine. We’ve rehearsed so much that I think we could perform this thing in our sleep. But I know all too well about pre-performance jitters, so I’m trying to be the strong, calm one this time for her sake. I like it when she relies on me. Responsibility doesn’t freak me out like it used to. Guess I really am growing up.

Maybe it’s too much to ask you to witness my life finally moving forward without you. I suppose it is. But I like to think that if you had gotten the help you needed, you and I could have been friends eventually. Or at least not enemies. I never wished you ill, and deep down I know you never did me, either. So now that the moment has arrived for us to part ways for good, and I’d like to make it an amicable split. I hope your spirit is as willing as mine is.

My mom’s friend Tom is taking me out on the Sound tomorrow for a short trip on his boat. You and I both know what tomorrow is -- the blackest anniversary I’ll ever know. It’ll be three years to the day since I found you in that bathtub. But I hope to lessen its stain by taking this letter with me, reading it to you, and then casting it out over the water. Norma suggested that I do something symbolic -- a “cleansing ritual,” I think she called it -- to end our chapter once and for all so that I’m fully free to commit to the next.

I’m ready now. I’ve been ready for awhile. Bella told me she never said good-bye to her mom; just farewell until it was time for them to meet again. And so I’ll simply say “farewell” to you, Tanya, because I truly do wish you well. Wherever you are, I hope you can find it in your heart to do the same for me.


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