IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND

Those of us women who love other women not only find ourselves underrepresented on screen, but it’s fairly close to zero that we hear our kind of love expressed in song between two women as well. When I heard this cover by Diana Krall and Sarah McLachlan of the classic by Gordon Lightfoot, I couldn’t help but think of the two TV surgeons who caused such a stir with their love story, setting up permanent places in our hearts and minds–places that now ache with emptiness and anger and sadness since their story was ended via the same horrible tropes that lesbian love stories are usually done in by.

I first started writing about Serena Campbell and Bernie Wolfe and really thinking about what they meant to me after that horrible December episode when an affair was discovered, Serena caught the bouquet, and Bernie gave her goodbye salute at Albie’s door not only to Serena but to us viewers as well. It had been a very long time since I had cried like THAT, and I think it’s fair to say that my tears were also symbolic of my un-shed grief for a cousin who had killed himself two years previous. It was 10 months after that sweet young cousin of mine had shot himself in the head that I first discovered Berena, and his death and my family’s inability or unwillingness to talk about it caused my grief to exponentially explode. I desperately needed something to cling to and somehow the blonde and brunette I watched videos of began to tend my hurt. Seeing the love they had found after already living half of their lives also made me hopeful I think that it wasn’t too late for me. That despite the chronic illness I had been diagnosed with and had virtually ripped me out of the daily workings of the world around me, despite THAT, maybe I could still find love, too.

Bernie and Serena were real. And authentic. Full of faults, but consummate professionals and tops in their respective fields of trauma and vascular surgery. Women at midlife who most certainly were not dead from the neck down, but passionately and sexually vibrant. The chemistry seen between the two actresses on screen left no doubt as to what went on outside the hospital even if we never saw any of that. It’s no exaggeration to say that it was magic.

I won’t comment on the nastiness that ensued on various social media after their precious and all too rare story was so carelessly and callously ended despite constant promises for something different. Anyone can go onto Twitter and search the hashtags Berena or BerenaDeservedBetter to get an idea of what has transpired, and the bereft-ness that is here, still.

What I will say is this: I grew up in a small, conservative New England town. My hometown had one flower shop and that shop was owned by two lesbians who lived and loved together for at least 40 years in the most unlikely of places. Though I don’t have any details, I assume it wasn’t easy, but how lucky was I to have grown up with them as my role models for relationship. Despite the difficulties (and hard times happen in ALL relationships), they show that drama does not need drama to make a good story. Portraying a many decades long love and all the ups and downs is enough. Real life provides all the drama one could possibly need. What’s more, it would be extraordinary and goddamn unbelievable to finally see it on my screen.

If you could read my mind love
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like an old time movie
About a ghost from a wishing well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
You know that ghost is me
And I will never be set free
As long as I’m a ghost you can see

If I could read your mind love
What a tale your thoughts could tell
Just like a paperback novel
The kind the drugstore sells
When you reach the part where the heartaches come
The hero would be me
Heroes often fail
And you won’t read that book again
Because the ending’s just too hard to take

I walk away like a movie star
Who gets burned in a three way script
Enter number two, a movie queen
To play the scene of bringing all the good things out in me
But for now love let’s be real

I never thought I could act this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it
I don’t know where we went wrong
But the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back

If you could read my mind love
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like an old time movie about a ghost from a wishing well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
The story always ends
And if you read between the lines
You’ll know that I’m just trying to understand
The feelings that you lack

I never thought I could feel this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it
I don’t know where we went wrong
But the feeling’s gone
And I just can’t get it back

5 thoughts on “IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND

    1. Amy, listening to this “If You Could Read My Mind” song takes me back (ok, here goes the old lady talk) to the 70’s. From what my abacus says, you were born in 1976. In 1976 I was already 3-4 years into my teaching career. I also was trying to talk myself out of being in love with at least 2 women. Oh, and did I mention I was also married and desperately wanted children? Oh, yes, I ran the gamut. But back to Gordon Lightfoot, he was one of my favorites. So were Peter, Paul, & Mary, John Denver, Simon and Garfunkel and others too numerous to mention here. I had a girlfriend who had collected all the best albums from these folks. Her name was Judy and I loved her and would make the 30 minute trip to see her in another town at least 2, maybe 3 times a week. And of course, Gordon’s voice was on her turntable. Though I knew I loved Judy, I never thought I was a lesbian then. I got accused by the roommate I left every night to come see Judy that there must be more to my visits than my just wanting to go see her. Well, I just figured Linda was just jealous that I was gone. Nevertheless, I never gave it much thought except that when I knocked on Judy’s door and she opened it, I would immediately envelope her and the best feelings came over me. Still, no, I just loved her (that’s what I kept saying to myself). I went through several relationships like this, getting all steamed up, knowing I had a strong will to hold myself back from anything besides a great hug. But, then, even after my children were born, I still was ME… still got crushes, still didn’t label them. After all, as you said, there was no one on t.v. that I could compare myself to. So, the 80’s rolled over me, still with crushes, the 90’s and then, BLAM! A terrible thing happened that woke me up to my own real feelings. A friend of mine, younger than me, dropped dead of a heart attack. None of my friends had ever died at my age then (close to 50). I didn’t believe it. I suddenly realized one major thing because this friend who died was about to marry a second time, had a great house ready to move into and was totally in love. I was so angry that she had been treated unfairly, or at least by my standards. As I left the funeral, I made up my mind and it has been a mantra of mine ever since: “If there’s something in life you have always needed or wanted to do, but haven’t done it yet, you’d best get started NOW.” I’ll leave out details of how I got to live out my mantra, but suffice it to say, I didn’t admit nor do anything about acting on my desire to be with a woman until I was 50 or 51. And then, there are lots of details to add after that, but that’s for another “book”. BTW, Buffy St.-Marie was also popular then and I loved her songs too. “The Circle Game” was one of my favorites and for me, that song helped describe all the different levels and age groups I went through until I got to my authentic self. That’s my story so far. My life goes on from here. xx

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      1. Thank you for this truly reply and for sharing some of your story. As Joan Didion has written, “We tell stories in order to live.” We tell them to make meaning, to understand, to grieve. Stories, whether in print, on screen, or on stage, are perhaps the only truth I know. Note: your abacus has produced a slightly faulty calculation…I was born in 1975 😉

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  1. Amy, I’d never heard this version of “If You Could Read My Mind” although I’m a big Sarah McLachlan fan, so firstly, thank you for introducing it. Secondly, like you and others touched and profoundly affected by the Berena storyline, the words of the song resonate for me. Berena was real, as you say, real because for the first time women like us could see our lives on screen, feel validated, feel visible…

    I lost my own partner of 24 years in the same month that Bernie was listed as MIA, and it has been hard to untangle the emotional knots of losing two women I loved in the same period. I lived in her Asian country for all those years, invisible and unable to share my relationship status with any of my colleagues or local friends. Only our western friends knew. The Berena storyline was therefore one of the most liberating things I had ever experienced- it gave me a group of new Facebook friends, one of whom I have since met several times and chat to every day. It gave me fanfic, which has been my salvation- as my wife wasted away from cancer I could pour my thoughts and feelings into Berena fanfic- both as an escape and a means of expressing what could not be outwardly shown. Despite the passing of time since Bernie disappeared, it still feels real to me, I need it to be real. I have consciously avoided the unpleasantness on social media following the ridiculous December break-up episode. I was broken-hearted at the time and yes, angry too for a while that some TV writer could take this beautiful, vibrant relationship and crush it like a piece of paper and toss it in the bin, throwing my heart and all those invested emotions with it. But at the end of the day it’s the way TV works, so rather than waste energy on anger I have channelled that energy into continuing to believe in the truth of Berena- not the canon myth that wlw relationships are unsustainable (because, hey, we survived 24 years with several major life events trying to knock us off track, so that’s easily disproved) but in the central, core, true message that yes, it’s possible to find your soulmate if you’re a woman who loves women, even if you’re 50 plus. That is what should sustain us in our grief and feed our stories. Maybe one day the boys at the Beeb will be replaced by more women, and those women will help us to make sure our lived narratives make it onto the screen for longer and with more positive outcomes.

    Meanwhile, here I am in a new country, alone but not… I have my Berena friends, I have fanfic and a whole new world of lesbian fiction to explore, I have my memories of a long and mostly happy relationship with a very special lady that will never fade, and I have Berena still in my mind, that amazingly tangible chemistry so perfectly brought to life by Jemma and Catherine. When I see videos like yours, it makes it real again, it helps to heal the pain of loss.

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    1. I am sorry for not replying sooner–I wanted time to think before I did, though I don’t believe any amount of mulling could help me craft a response to your heartfelt message that would do it justice. Thank you for commenting on the post, for taking the time to read to begin with and for sharing your story. It’s been one of the many gifts of Berena, hearing the stories of others–those stories are what let us know we aren’t alone now that we no longer see Bernie and Serena on our screens. And I am so deeply sorry about your partner; it is a kind of loss that I do not have any experience of despite losing many others. It’s a wondrous thing, how so many of us have found kindred spirits through this tale of love. Like you, I’ve made some wonderful friends via Facebook and we even have a group chat set up where we talk to each other every day about everything and anything, and we’ve met several times now when I’ve flown across the pond. They are an extraordinary group of women who entered my life when other friends close by disappeared, when I was at my loneliest and struggling to find a way forward in a life made difficult by an illness that isn’t going to go away. I will always fight and push for better, true representation on screen, but at the end of the day, no matter how horrible and ridiculous the ending of Berena was, the blessings far outweigh the negative.

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