Thursday, March 05, 2009


I am having trouble sleeping these days, at least when without the Goat, that is, which is three if not four nights a week; the one way I can combat it (without chemical help not available in my own house) is to shut everything down and get into bed at 10 and read until 11. Then I can almost always shut the book, turn out the light, and hit the hay without any trouble, just like the old days. But otherwise I can lie there, doing deep breaths and tensing and relaxing my whole body, both of which used to work, and be just as wide awake after half an hour or an hour as I was at the beginning.

Last night it was about the Goat. Now it's not nice to get angry at someone who is really sick, but I was so mad at him that I just couldn't relax. It never lasts, thank God, but it was enough to keep me up. My last bout was a couple of weeks ago, when he "improved" something I had cooked for him, which he said tasted of freezer-burn [Problem #1], by adding ketchup and commercial tomato sauce to it [Problem #2, and a Big One].

For someone who claims to have the world's most sensitive palate, which I can certainly accept, having heard his withering criticisms of food that seemed perfectly fine to me, he has some strange ways of fitting food to his taste. I actually told him that night that I was about as mad at him as I had ever been. That put the fear of God in him, because I was practically, and probably visibly, steaming. But within a quarter of an hour, while he was still trying to pour oil on those troubled waters, I was over it. Aside from feeling that if he did half the thinking he had done about pouring oil on the waters before he got them all troubled, life would be a hell of a lot easier for me...

This was different--it was quiet and deep. It's an old issue, really: the fact that he often maintains two simultaneous but conflicting, not to say opposite, attitudes, in conversation or just life in general. He will complain bitterly about how one of his colleagues treats him, and then go on about how much he loves him or her. This drives me nuts, but as long as it's only description, I can live with it; I just listen to both statements, admit that it's OK to be ambivalent, and make the adjustment in my head that I wish to God he had made in his own before he opened his mouth. The problem is the time span between the statements: he can go for a week saying one thing, and then bounce back to the other. If you are a person who is inclined to take people at their word, this can be gut- and mind-wrenching.

The Goat has been sick, really sick, for about a week. For years now, I have listened to him hold forth all the time on how exhausting his job is, how he can barely handle the stress, how he is looking forward to retirement [God help me]. Now I know that all teachers sing this song, but if things were really that bad, they would all have baled out long ago, right? And he passes right over the fact that he has over sixteen weeks of paid vacation a year; he hasn't had a normal vacation schedule in ten or fifteen years. But OK, it's a boarding school, they do eat up many of his weekends and most evenings, and I can see how it would grind you down. I buy it.

Then, when he is really sick, he insists on teaching all his classes, doing all his evening duties, and running all his extracurricular activities. Suddenly, he can do it all and somehow "rest" in order to recuperate at the same time. OK, I could buy that, if it weren't for what I hear all the other days of the year. Choose one or the other, or admit you have to make the compromise yourself, for Pete's sake.

In his defense, there is a sort of competition among the faculty to see who can do the most and complain the least, so that everyone winds up overloaded to the point where they collapse. To my mind, that is a danger anyway when you work evenings and many weekends and have at most a day and a half off per week. He hates it in the others, but, surprise, surprise, here he is, doing it himself. I spent last night biting my tongue, and then finally said, with perhaps a hint of exasperation, "If you won't look out for you, who's going to?" All he'd let me do was buy some groceries when he couldn't even get out of bed. And he told me that he had driven over to take care of his own little house in the Big Woods' own little Temple of the Dahnse, and that, thank God, the wind had swept all the snow off the roof so he didn't have to shovel it off.

He was actually going to shovel the snow off his roof when he can barely walk around. My response was immediate and heartfelt: "It's a good thing you didn't, because I might have had to shoot you." And I meant it. I'm not sure he got it this time, though I asked on my way out at the end of the evening whether he was going to have any downtime to take care of himself the next day...

I knew going in that the Goat was not going to be my ex-wife--that was, on one level, part of the appeal, right?--and I realized rather early on that my paranoia about other people, like my family and my children, making odious comparisons was really just my own feelings about the two of them projected onto others. I couldn't help seeing, pretty close to the beginning, that I had not necessarily traded up. The good things are great, but there are just so many ways that he doesn't, can't, couldn't, and shouldn't have to, hope to equal her. It sometimes makes me wonder what on earth I was doing. My only defense is that when I left home, I had no idea I would wind up with anybody, let alone my Goat. The thought of having to defend my leaving her for him would be harrowing if it weren't also so funny. I'm afraid it's immediately and painfully obvious to everyone what invisible talents balance out all the points on which he doesn't measure up... the final triumph and vengeance of the Inner Girl.

Now, there is a silver lining to the not sleeping: on doctor's orders, if I'm not asleep within twenty minutes, I have to get up and do something until I am sleepy.

That usually takes an hour to an hour and a half, and often has me up until 1 in the morning, but the silver lining is that I am actually doing things that I would never take time to do during the day, when I am supposed to be a productive member of society--ie, earning money. My father left several drawers full of letters mashed into envelopes, which my mother gave me to sort through, as most of them were letters to his mother, and a lot of them in languages my mother doesn't read. And I have been spending my night alerts sorting and ordering them. I have only read a few, but I have they have been doozies. My grandmother had a wide circle of friends, and some of them wrote a mean letter.

It's a good thing I don't have to do it for a living, because I would never get anything done: I'd just sit and read all day, instead of cleaning up the mess... and the mess has spread off my desk onto the bookcase and all the surrounding surfaces. Some day it's all going to cascade onto the floor and all my sorting work will go up in smoke. I never seem to think about the obvious needs of the night-time project during the day. So, someone out there, remind me to go out and get some file-folders and a big box...

Oh, well. So much for not blogging in work time.
If I could keep my nose to the grindstone as I should, I would have no nose left.
Hang in there, all.

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