In retrospect, it’s so obvious, I’m almost embarrassed to write it.
In the warnings that came from all corners, so many warnings, so many parallel stories
In the way that nothing was ever clear but I thought it was my own fault for not asking clear questions
In the way I clung to the few right things you said, the few good moments we had, and brushed away huge drifts of nonsense
In the way that I let it be that misogyny and racism were okay with me, would go unchallenged on my watch
In the way I was so determined to believe that you were radical and right-on, that you could be a mentor, even though your behaviour seemed so totally the opposite
In how the word ‘boundaries’ was forbidden
In the way that I continually justified your behaviour, your rage, your bullying and your disregard of your impact on others, how I made excuses for you, how I told myself it was hard for you, that you were sad, that you had been hurt, and that it was okay to be so cruel and for all of us to take it
In how I had to go to the very furthest rock, so that I was standing in the sea, to feel a sense of space, and even then I wasn’t safe, not until I was in a car, driving away
and how in coming back a weight of fear would descend, every time
In how Em and I talked each night, trying to figure out what we were doing wrong, how we could change our behaviour to accommodate you better, upset you less, keep ourselves safe and sane, move things forward to a better place, how we talked about little else, how we stopped having sex, stopped laughing, stopped loving our lives the way we always did
In how I woke up each morning feeling ill, and blamed it on the stove, the air pressure, the change in season, the change in environment
In how I felt I had to please you, each day, trying harder to win your approval, to make you happy, to make this okay
In how I knew it was my ego pushing me forwards, determined to be someone who could ride out a tricky transition, because that was all it was, surely, and I was strong enough, and I would prove it
In how I never felt safe and said that I didn’t feel safe but somehow believed I could and would find safety in your presence
In the way I would anxiously watch the kitchen window, fearful of the moment I would see you coming up the track each morning
In how I was frightened of you
In the knot of anxiety I carried in my stomach every day
In how I was becoming angry too
In how I knew, before your glass wasp trap had even hit the floor, that it was all over, that you would see red, and rant, and rage, but still then on what would be our final day I told myself that you would be reasonable, that you would understand it was an accident, that I shouldn’t expect the worst from you, that it would be okay.
In the traps you set, the blatant lies, the thick cloud of delusion and acrid smoke around your head. In the biggest lie of all; in how you described your land as a healing place, when everyone who lived there became stressed, anxious, addicted or sick and left needing healing. And how I myself need healing now.
In everything everybody said. In everything you said. In everything I said. The signs were all there.
In how you followed Emma down the track as she drove away, spitting, furious, that I was a liar, that she didn’t know me, one last attempt to hurt us, spewing your hate all over your own land.
In how, just three days after I’ve left, I already feel nothing for you but a sort of deep, hopeless sadness and a soreness I will soothe in the sea and with love and with time and with loving my life.
Yes, all of those signs were there for me to see. I laugh now, grimly, as I write, for how obvious it all was, how impossible it all was.
And it’s true. I am a liar.
I lied to myself, when all of those signs were there, when it was so clear that you hated me, hated change, hated women, hated yourself, hated your son, I lied to myself and said that things were different and that we had a shared vision and that it could work.
I lied to myself and my family and said that it was just a difficult transition, that storming is a necessary part of what we were all doing, that storming could be as venomous as that, that it was okay, that it was hard for you, that it would come right.
I lied to myself in February when I had that first glimpse of how bad things could be, and I decided it was just a difficult week, a one-off, and still I decided to come back for good. (That one was a pretty big lie.)
I was a liar when I made so many excuses for your behaviour. I was a liar when I said for the thousandth time that faith would carry us through and that I believed we could get there.
And I lied to you when I accepted that hand on my shoulder and your lie, that you believed we should be there, and I said ‘I do too’.
There are so many lies on your 16 acres. So many sad, impossible lies in such a beautiful place. I am sorry for my part in perpetuating the myth. Sorry for the lies I told myself. Sorry that I told you I believed in our vision long after I had felt it crumble. I should have said then. Should have spoken up, challenged myself to stop, challenged you to stop.
Now, I forgive myself. I threw out the wrong things, broke something special. I made mistakes. I apologised, explained. These will never be forgiven, I understand that this is not your way. But I forgive myself.
I forgive myself for the lie I carried. That this could work. That we were in the right place. I’ve learned the power of a lie like that, but I’m grateful too, because it brought us here, to the Highlands.
And sitting here by the sea, looking south, I feel grateful. I’m sad, but I’m okay. I’m happy to be free. I’m grateful for what you have taught me.