Your words are with me all day, every day; they whisper on the wind as I am walking. In my head, when I think, “cannot” has become “canna,” and “mo chridhe” has replaced every endearment I use. This is because Jamie has become the embodiment of my dream for me… that I will one day be as strong and vulnerable as he is, so that when my Sassenach arrives, I’ll know what to do. I canna see her, but I imagine.
Maybe she’s a doctor, too.
I am fascinated by medicine, and thought about becoming a nurse myself. I was talked out of it by those closest to me, because they dinna believe I would realize that dream. I’d struggled with math all my life; it made no sense to them that I was capable of righting that deficiency.
I knew what they didn’t, that I’d made bad grades because I couldn’t see my learning disability for what it was. ADHD took my concentration and mangled it like a drunken head-on collision. I had never learned coping mechanisms, and I’d never taken medication. I knew that school this time around would be different, but I let my loved ones’ opinions rule over my own, because I wasna secure in my own beliefs… until…
I met the archetype for my Sassenach. She was the wrong woman, at the wrong time, the wrong place, the wrong sexual orientation. I struggled anyway, married to Laoghaire and Frank in one body. I became Lord John Grey in his smallest little boy place, loving my Sassenach at arm’s length, trying not to want too much because I wasna hurting her with my want, only torturing myself.
Slowly, over time, I came to an important realization. I’d only seen pictures, I’d only met her virtually. It was her words that got under my skin and nothing else. In essence, I hadn’t fallen in love with my Sassenach as much as I’d fallen in love with one of my own characters. The more I wrote about her, she was a 3D character that danced in my mind… but that 3D character wasn’t really her. It was part of her, with my own words filled in.
That epiphany was the one that allowed me to let her float back into the ether from whence she came, because when she realized the depth of emotion I had, her first reaction was to run away. Why wouldn’t it? She didn’t realize that, to a writer, her words were always going to be more important than her physical body. I stared at her pictures the way Jamie stared at Brianna in hers…. Love overflowing because I could match words to a face, and finally make her some semblance of real.
You talk often of your love for Doctor Who. In my own mind, the journey was trying to turn her from Rose into Amy… the face I loved without a hint of romance to it. Deep, companionate love that would last a lifetime. When I couldn’t make that leap anymore, I pushed her away with such fire that I have doubts she’ll ever return.
My cardinal mistake, the one I’ll always regret, is this one line in our letters:
I will stop talking about those in-love feelings if you’ll just allow me to flirt with you in a non-threatening way.
I flirted in one line, she flirted back.
It seemed right and good. I was laughing so hard my desk chair sagged. Things were going to be okay.
So I flirted back, and so did she.
I flirted back, and so did she.
It was in the last two lines of dialogue that I realized I could never quiet the storm raging inside me. I undid myself by opening the door to something I couldn’t handle, thinking all the while it was harmless.
I dinna ken.
Her wordplay was sharper than mine, and she stepped over my comfort zone without even knowing it… at the time, neither did I. It’s never the earthquake that gets you. It’s the aftershocks. Imagine a full orchestra on a final note, the way the reverb in a live room keeps it ringing.
It was mostly downhill from that point, because I did everything in my power to make her angry enough to stomp off, because I knew it would work. If I couldn’t have my Sassenach because she wouldn’t have me as her Jamie (or vice versa- take your pick), I had to learn to live without her. Trying to turn her into my Jenny or my Murtagh failed over and over (and over and over).
The thing that brought us together, my lifeblood, my writing, tore us apart as she saw herself in my mirror, because she dinna ken, either… that I was creating a character based on her- but could never be her because how much can you really know about a person in only black and white? Ink and paper without pictures can only reveal so much.
…or at least, that’s what I have to make myself believe, because even “Frank” knew I’d seen her soul and how I wrestled with that reality. As a writer, can’t you see how much I am lying through my teeth? That ink and paper are everything?
Jamie lived in Claire’s memory for 20 years before Frank got mad enough to stomp off. In my case, it only took two. As did Claire, I loved my “Frank.” But our love became distracted, disjointed enough to break us apart with bitter words at the end.
I did not find Outlander for myself until after “Frank,” “Claire,” and “Jamie” left. I say all three names because I canna decide who was the Sassenach and who was the Highlander in this analogy. The story has healed me in so many ways, because even though my Sassenach was never really mine, I have taken Jamie’s pain into myself.
I see his struggle. I see how he cannot even mention her name without feeling pain. I am in that same small place, not even ready to distract myself because there is no room.
Not yet, anyway.
I love easily. My love is gigantic, and I am waiting without distraction for the capability to forgive myself for letting this situation happen. In Outlander, when Claire realizes that she will betray one love for the other, my soul wrenched and nearly broke in half. In a metaphysical way, I still wear both rings. Now, I want to be free. I want to choose myself… again, so that when my real Sassenach arrives, I will know it.
I want to be able to run into the arms of the one that is capable of the same kind of soul-ensconcing passion that Jamie and Claire embody. I want to take her, own her as much as she owns me… in ink, in paper, in body and flesh entwined. The whole package I never knew I needed…
Until there was you.
Thank you for your words, because they forced me to want more. To forgive myself for all that is past to make room for the future.
…because your words are with me. All day. Every day.