Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I nearly came apart at the seams last night. It was a tough day, but what settled around me was this tight band around my chest -- something I have definitely felt before, or something like which I have definitely felt before. Now it is more intense; my longing is based on knowledge, not fantasy. And in the more recent past, the anguish came from separation from the Goat; now, the anguish bracketed our time together so completely that it was as easy to "forget" the time together as it was to "forget" vacation once everything [i.e., me] was back in the right place... The longing was nearly overwhelming. It was a physical ache. And I did not do the better thing. I called, and told him.

Is there a Nobel prize for Doing Dumb Things You Know You Shouldn't Do?

The call brought me face-to-face with something that puzzles me as much as I understand it intellectually. I have told him, and posted here ad nauseam, that we are locked into inescapable asymmetry by our wildly differing life stories. But what rocks me is not the fact, but what follows from it: I am (any surprise out there?) head over heels in love, the crazy, irrational emotional overload that masks every other incoming signal to the heart and head. He seems genuinely fond of me, and certainly treats me with almost superhuman tenderness and patience, shrugging it off as the result of our common attraction; but he is also quite open and honest about the simple, unavoidable fact that he is not in love that way, can't be. He has been in love too often before; the day for that kind of emotional overload has passed with the coming of a kind of weary wisdom: everything is in perspective.

It is certainly true that newborns (like myself) are always at the extreme of their emotional range: happiness is 100% delight, sadness is 100% devastation, anger is... well, 100% rage.

What we do as we grow up is acquire some knowledge of life, and in the process we begin to be able to say to ourselves: "This is terrible, but not so terrible as that was." There is a loss, I suppose, in terms of connection to the heart, but it is a price most of us are only too happy to pay. Then there are the unhappy few who have to start all over again, which I only too obviously have. And the intensity of it all is debilitating.

But beyond this is something equally troubling. It is a sad fact that my professional life came to end around the time that I lost my ability to go on living as I had; in fact, in all likelihood, the loss of my professional life precipitated the collapse of my personal life. It was not just that a vacuum was created into which anything could have been pulled: I had lost the ability to maintain any kind of control over myself. I think I have said before that when the big constraints went by the board, they swept everything else with them. Leaving me half fifty-five, half fifteen, and half toddler. Well, you know what I mean.

Back to the point: the Goat has a profession for which he fought in middle age, over many and varied difficulties, reinventing himself at 50. His teaching job is not just a job, it is a calling, and an obligation that, given that he is on the faculty of a boarding school, eats up most of his time. He teaches six days a week and then has dorm duties on top of that. Now, I could be wringing my hands about the fact that he is pretty much unavailable even on the weekends most of the time, but the problem here is deeper.

It is the gap between his late achievement of a desired profession, and my loss of mine. Yes, I have a job, have too many jobs, in fact, but what I have lost is all the weight of expertise and experience which make up a man's self-respect. Mine had been gutted long before I decided I could no longer stay married under the conditions I would have to meet -- and it comes as something of a shock to realize that it is this wound that seems even less likely to heal. It is not as if the end of my marriage has receded into the dim mists of the past; my vacation experience was all about ripping open the wound over and over again, no matter how kind and thoughtful people were about it. But this: the fact that I am unlikely ever to find anything like truly meaningful work... cc This will drive me mad for sure. And here, too, the gap between us is so wide as to feel completely uncrossable.

Well, we have crossed some pretty mind-boggling gaps already, so maybe we can find a way for me to cross this one, too. It's just that after five years of looking for work with increasing desperation and humiliating lowering of my sights, I no longer really believe it's going to happen. So I just stumble along and take the occasional moment, like this one, to wring my hands over it. Wouldn't I just love to be back where I was even five years ago, when things began to head south, but still held out some hope of "professional" work?

You know that saying about being nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you are likely to meet them again on the way down? I feel I haven't even met any of the people I met on the way up -- it feels like I am just headed down all on my own. My eldest son, who is renowned for his wry sense of humor if not for his empathic powers, pointed out to me that we were in fact at the same spot on Fortune's wheel, only he was moving upward. I know he didn't mean it the way I felt it, but I felt it that way anyway.

There is so much I should be doing.

And what I want to do is write, write, write. Poems. Journal entries. Anything but the things I have committed myself to doing between now and Christmas. Just to have another two or three weeks, to have a constantly repeating two or three week period, in which I can read and write to my heart's content.

But I would settle for a "real job."
Whatever that would look like.
If it doesn't show up soon, it'll be altogether too late...

Hang in there, all. Don't go getting all gloomy like some people.


  1. I will do my best not to be gloomy.

  2. TG:

    As usual, you shame me.
    Must just be your lot in life.
    Hang in there.


  3. Oh, Troll. If there WAS a nobel prize for doing things you know you shouldn't, I'd probably have been elected to the judging committee by now. Don't feel too bad about it.

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  6. Just live each day at a time, Trollie-babe. Things will get better. They do, you know. I've gotten out of my suicidal depression. You'll find a job as you get more confident.

    Good luck, and best wishes.