Going Back to Heal the Pain
“If you keep picking at that scab on your heart, it won’t heal.”
― Antonia Perdu
It’s the perceived wisdom that you should leave a wound alone to let it heal – both physical and emotional. I’ve never been very good at that if I’m honest. I pick at things emotionally; leaving them alone doesn’t seem to work for me, they just seem to get worse and worse until I do something about it – face them head on, pick at the wound.
“There are some wounds that one can heal only by deepening them and making them worse.”
― Villiers de L’Isle-Adam
I seem to be going through a bit of a process at the moment, picking at old wounds, trying to make them heal once and for all. You might have read my post a couple of days ago about my stalker; that’s a fifteen year old wound that I still need to heal. Writing the post was my way of picking at it, opening it up again, making it worse. Not worse than it was at the time of course, but worse than it was before I picked at it. It’s only this that allows me to lay it to rest and move on. I hope I will be able to do that soon.
Last week, I picked at another old wound when I took a trip to Bath.
I grew up in the North East of England, but when I went to university I decided to go to Bath. After I graduated, I remained in Bath for several years. In my last year at uni, I joined a house share with four others, who’d all gone to university elsewhere and migrated to Bath for work. We were able to rent some gorgeous houses in Bath – at one point we had an entire five floor Georgian townhouse, with large rooms, lots of space and a “gracious drawing room” and we each paid far less than we would have paid for a dingy room in a house-share elsewhere in Bath. It was glorious.
In amongst our group were two couples; I was one half of one couple. Eventually, we began splitting off into our own flats, new people joined the house-share to take the places of the couples who moved out, but we all carried on meeting up regularly. They were good times.
And then, a little under three years after I graduated, my relationship ended. Painfully. I couldn’t bear the idea of staying in Bath, knowing that we shared the same friends and would see each other but not be together, knowing that I would see him with his new belle. I gave up my job, my flat, my friends and moved back to the North East.
I made a new life, connected back up with old friends, found a new job, went back to uni to train as a teacher, got myself a new career. And new loves. And eventually, a husband. I had a good life. I have a good life, and I know I have lots to be grateful for. But through it all, there was always a nagging feeling that I was missing something, that life in Bath had continued without me. It hurt.
And so, after eighteen years I decided that it was time to go back. Open that wound to heal it. I’ve been accused of over thinking things, and I’m certainly guilty of that, hence still feeling that loss so many years later.
I spent a couple of days in Bath. Arriving late afternoon, my route into Bath led me past three of the places I had lived, which was a strangely painful beginning to the trip. My B&B was also just a few doors down from one of those houses, chosen because I knew it was a short walk into the city centre, not knowing in advance what my mobility would be like whilst I was there.
On my first evening I walked to Queens Square, just a couple of minutes from my B&B, to read my book in the sun. There was a boule competition going on, catered by Waitrose – it was a far cry from the pool league we used to belong to, catered with curled up sandwiches at the local pub.
The next day, I explored Bath and was surprised how much had changed and how much had stayed the same. There was a whole new development where the old bus station used to be – and by new development, I mean new streets created from nothing. It was a little odd, especially since large parts of that area were temporarily covered with artificial grass and oversized cushions for people to lounge around on.
I was sad to see that the Haagen Dazs cafe that I worked in whilst at uni had gone, replaced several times over I’m sure, but now a Cafe Nero. I was surprisingly cheered to see that Schwartz Bros were still in business, since they were always reliably the best burgers around. Ditto Ben’s Cookies, although these days I couldn’t enjoy the burgers or the cookies (thanks, Coeliac Disease!)
I discovered that when you know Bath so well, but no longer live there, and you aren’t there as a tourist either, the place is just odd. Many of the things I loved about Bath when I lived there were now a little depressing. I spent a good couple of hours camped out at the back of a coffee shop, reading my book, because outside was just, well … not what I remembered.
That evening I saw some friends – the other couple from our group – and spent a few hours chatting over old times, some of the things we got up to, the parties we held, the laughs we had. That evening put so much into perspective for me. Life hadn’t just gone on as before after I left. The group drifted apart over time, most moved out of Bath. Things moved on. Up in the North, I imagined that things had frozen in time, but of course they hadn’t. And it turns out the things I no longer liked about Bath were the same things my friends had grown tired of. Who knew? We just outgrew the place. I went back to my B&B much happier than I’d felt when I arrived in Bath.
The next morning I met up with another old friend, although 18 years ago, it was the pain of seeing him that led me to leave in the first place. With just a little awkwardness, we chatted over good times, talked about our families, laid the past to rest. It felt good (even if the coffee wasn’t great!).
That afternoon, whilst I waited for my car to be fixed, I retreated to the back of that coffee shop again, and read my book knowing that this wound was now closing for the last time. And when I got back home that evening Stonelaughter, knowing that all these things had gone round my head for the entire time we’ve known each other, was able to see that the healing had not just begun, but was well on the way.
And as a bonus, I hope that this trip means we will all make a little more effort to stay in touch and maybe not leave it another 18 years until the next time!