Becky says things about … a letter to my creative self (aka ‘Bertha’)
Hi there. It’s me. I know you haven’t heard from me properly for a while, but I’ve been busy, okay? Life, work, cleaning the bath, making casseroles, they all take up my time and sometimes they’re just more pressing than you.
It’s not all my fault, mind you, it takes two to tango. You haven’t exactly been forthcoming recently. I tried to get in touch with you a month or so ago, and I sat in front of my laptop for an entire hour waiting for you to show up, and you didn’t. You made me look a right idiot in front of Microsoft Word.
So I think it’s time we had a chat.
We need to be honest with each other. You see, I’m not sure this is really working out.
It’s not you, it’s me.
I know I don’t make time for you when I should, and I know I don’t talk to you for ages. I know I sometimes don’t put much effort into our relationship. Sorry, Bertha. I do feel bad about that. But the thing is, you have terrible mood swings and I can’t stand them. Sometimes you’re so up for it and we get on so well: we jump around and dance and laugh and it’s brilliant. The stuff we come out with! Lives are born! People on paper! They talk and think and wonder and get hurt and celebrate and live!
But then sometimes you’re sulky, you don’t want to play. You wander off, and no matter how loudly I yell for you when I want you, you ignore me. It hurts my feelings, Bertha. It annoys me. I get bloody angry with you, to be honest. In fact, it’s not me at all, it’s you, because quite frankly you are sometimes a complete dick. You’re cold, callous, unresponsive, uncooperative, and rude. I get so angry with you, Bertha, and angry with myself for letting you behave that way, because I probably should’ve treated you better over the years: paid you more attention, nurtured you more, spoken to you every day instead of going off without you for long periods of time. I know. It’s probably my fault. Maybe it is me.
The thing is, I want us to be happy. When it’s good, it’s so good. I love spending evenings hanging out with you, having a chat, trying out stuff, making words breathe. Yes, I love sharing a bottle of wine with you, even if you do overdo it sometimes (but I’ll admit that the stuff you come out with after a few glasses of Merlot is quite often pretty good).
It’s brilliant when we’re getting on: you’re my best friend, and I couldn’t imagine life without you.
Then sometimes you get too heavy, so I try to ignore you. You just nag so much, Bertha, you irritate the hell out of me. You’re like an overbearing mother tapping her watch and reminding me I’ve got homework to do every single day, and it gets wearing. I’m a grown-up, for God’s sake, I’ve done the homework thing. It’s totally you, it’s not me. Even if you’re not up talking to me or hanging out with me, you never leave me alone; you’re always harassing me, slyly poking me, taunting me, and it’s bloody annoying. So, yes, I’ve ignored you. I do other stuff, I deliberately try and fill my time with other things, like cleaning the back of the washing machine or suddenly remembering I desperately need to go for a run or learn the bassoon. I just try and push you out of my head, because I know your mood swings and I know you’re not reliable, and I know that when I give in to your nagging and sit down and say hello, we’ll chat for five minutes and then you leave me! It hurts me, Bertha. It makes me feel like I’ve failed to make a bond with you. So I ignore you.
I’ve thought about breaking up with you. I’ve thought about saying goodbye to you once and for all, letting go of you and getting on with my life, leaving you behind as someone I used to know. But you know what, I hate being without you. I feel empty, like I’ve lost a best friend or a lover. I’ve known you for as long as I can remember, we’ve been together since I could hold a pen, we’ve gone through school, two degrees, a book of short stories, a blog, we’ve got a whole ream of memories under our belt. And you know what? You just will not go away. No matter how hard I try to ignore you, no matter how long we don’t talk or how seriously I think about breaking up with you, you always just sit there, arms crossed, waiting and shaking your head. I feel guilty. You know I’ll always come back to you, Bertha. You know that no matter how unfeeling or obstinate you’re being, or however much you’ve pissed me off, or however much you’ve hurt me and made me believe in you and then let me down—I will always come crawling back. And I kind of hate that, but I kind of like it too. You intolerable minx.
I know I need to treat you better. (It’s definitely me.) I know you need feeding. You were brilliant throughout our degrees, you sparkled and roared and danced around like a right diva—but then when I forget about you or ignore you, you sulk. Because I know you get hungry. When I don’t read books—when I fall into a daily plod through my life, when I get distracted and lazy and lethargic—you get hungry. You get bored. I understand that.
But you’ve woken up in the last week or so, haven’t you? I’ve read a good book, and I felt you stir and take an interest. You even got up at one point and we spent some time together quietly, both a bit unsure of the other, but we got on okay. We achieved something. (I really enjoyed that, by the way. I hope we can do it again soon.) And I can feel you shaking your hair out and preening a bit. All because I fed you.
So maybe it’s both of us. Maybe you need me to be a bit more caring and a bit more lively, and I need you to be a bit more responsive, and to give me a bit of a break.
I don’t want to break up with you. I’ve always hoped—known, maybe—that me and you can do well. We just need to get on better, spend some more time with each other. I really believe in us, Bertha. Even when I hate you and you hate me, and we don’t even want to look at each other—I still believe we can be truly happy and make a go of it.
You see, we need each other. I don’t have anything else to fill the Bertha-shaped hole, and I can’t even imagine how much grief you’ll give me for the rest of my life if I let you go. I know what you’re like: you’ll let me think you’ve gone, then you’ll storm back and punch me in the face and make me remember you and I’ll feel crap forever.
So let’s not break up. Let’s give it a go. I like you, Bertha. And I know that, deep down, you really like me.
– Becky Mayhew