helen-louise (baratron) wrote,

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plagued by "if only"s

Came home from a lovely evening at the pub last night to find a letter saying my godfather had died. Feeling pretty beaten up about it.

I wasn't baptised as a baby, because my parents wanted me to make my own choice about religion. But I kinda became religious on my own. I went to Christian schools, and by the time I was 11, I was fairly devout. I went to church every time there was a Youth Service (I couldn't stand low church C of E Communion, it was so boring), belonged to the Christian Union, read the Bible most days.

At senior school, I didn't fit in. (Funny that, a serious, bookish, geekish, ravingly Christian child not fitting in!) I had few friends, and those I did have were other geeks from the computer room and Christian Union. I got on better with the teachers - my computer studies teacher, and the school chaplain. I went to have tea with him and his wife every week, and they would feed me toast and cake, and I'd take their dogs for a walk.

They left after the first year, because he was also chaplain of an Oxford college and the Oxford FC team, and driving between Guildford and Oxford several times a week became a bit much. But I stayed in contact. So much so that when I got baptised at the age of 13, they asked if I would consider them as extra godparents. So I did.

Since then, well... I haven't been much in contact recently. Partly because by the time I was at university, I didn't have the motivation to keep in contact with people from school. Let alone the elderly ex-chaplain and his wife. Then there was my increasing disillusion with Christianity. By the time I got to university, I didn't feel at all comfortable even in the low church C of E - I tried various other churches and none of them fitted either. I just didn't know how to explain that to them. If I couldn't explain that, how to even begin explaining that I wasn't heterosexual?

So I drifted out of contact, apart from Christmas cards.

Then, sometime last year, I figured I really ought to write again. I was going through a stage of wanting to contact my old friends, to thank them for ... putting up with me, loving me at a time when I wasn't very lovable. I wrote them a longish letter, explaining some of the things I owed them - telling them about the state of my parents' marriage, and how it had entirely put me off legal marriage, and... some intensely personal things about Richard & I that I don't feel comfortable writing here.

They replied fairly quickly, but one of the first things in the letter was "Are you currently a member of a church?", and I just didn't know how to answer that. "No", without an explanation, was insufficient. So I left the letter unanswered. And sent an Easter card, saying we should really try to visit the next time we were somewhere near Oxford. I honestly intended to visit, but things like my illness and my mum's cancer and finishing my thesis and applying to go back to university got in the way. And a few weeks ago, I thought I really ought to write to them, telling them what had been going on in my life, that I was doing teacher training and was happy - even if I didn't answer the question of church or mention the non-heterosexuality and non-monogamy.

But I didn't get round to it. And now it's too late. And I wish I had've bothered to make the effort a bit earlier.

I thought I'd learned the lesson about not putting things off when Richard's mum died. And I said a long time ago, about a relationship that's long since dead, that it's pointless thinking in "if only"s. There's the quote from Granny Wetherwax in Discworld where she's talking to an ex-partner of many years ago -
"Do you ever wonder what life would have been like if you'd said yes?" said Ridcully.
"I suppose we'd have settled down, had children, grandchildren, that sort of thing..."

Granny shrugged. It was the sort of thing romantic idiots said. But there was something in the air tonight...
"What about the fire?" she said.
"What fire?"
"Swept through our house just after we were married. Killed us both."
"What fire? I don't know anything about any fire?"

Granny turned around. "Of course not! It didn't happen. But the point is, it might have happened. You can't say 'if this didn't happen then that would have happened' because you don't know everything that might have happened. You might think something'd be good, but for all you know it could have turned out horrible. You can't say 'If only I'd...' because you could be wishing for anything. The point is, you'll never know. You've gone past. So there's no use thinking about it. So I don't."

And that's what I've tried to live by.

But there's still times when you want to go back and change things, anyway.

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