Monthly Archives: July 2014

On Creating the Life I Want

My life right now is governed by fear. A fear that is impacting everything- my sleep, my capacity to get work done, my interactions with others.

I was writing a letter to an old friend who also recently went through a divorce, and I found myself typing this:

“I am SO hard on myself. But think about going through a divorce after 16 years, and having no experience of being an independent adult. Then combine moving back to the US, moving to a city where you know essentially nobody and have no support system. Alone. Into the house in which you lived with your spouse. While dealing with PTSD, and an anxiety disorder. And trying to write a dissertation (no life structure), apply for competitive jobs/post-docs/fellowships and graduate.”

I think I write things like that to people as a reminder to myself that my anger at myself for feeling sad and lonely is unwarranted. I also do it because I hope that it will prompt someone else to tell me I am strong, because I NEED to hear that. Or maybe it’ll prompt someone to save me, because I am so tired from trying to prop myself up.

I was in a bar on Friday in my yoga clothes. I was nursing a beer, and consciously forcing myself to breathe in and out, slowly. I was terrified. I felt like I couldn’t go home, because the solitariness of the space would torment me the way it does as I write this. First the sadness, then the despair. I couldn’t go home. So I sat, with my eyes darting quickly left and right, thinking “how did it come to this?” and asking myself:

“L, what do you WANT? What do you want your life to look like?”

That was an easy question to answer.

“But within the realm of current feasibility, what can I do to move towards a life that is more like what I want?” That’s what I need to figure out.

The bartender smiled at me curiously. I smiled back. I like that bar, but I feel like I always bring my dopey-sad eyes to it.

I have been keeping it under wraps, because I’ve been wrong in the past, and because this feels almost too good, but I met someone. Someone whose divorce situation resembles mine to an uncanny degree, who I can talk to with such comfort that it makes my heart hurt. But his marriage resulted in two kids, and they are of course his first priority (as an amazing dad and person). So I can sometimes only see him 1-2 evenings a week. This would be painless if I was in
any situation other than the one I am in right now. One of feeling like I need a babysitter until my new housemate moves in.

So I am still wrestling with all of my stuff. And actually, it gets hardest when I’ve met someone I like and I can’t see them that often, because I stop being able to use online dating sites as a way to distract myself. (Even when trying not to date, I find myself sneaking on.)

And right now my fear and sadness are keeping me from being able to do my academic work. But I must work. And even though he knows more about what’s really going on with me than anyone I’ve dated since this all started, I’m still scared of driving M. away. His family is in Houston, so he’s not gone off the rails as far. He has a local support system, and his kids. Meanwhile, my phobia of being alone raises my anxiety to the point where I get sick.

All of that aside, he makes me realize the difference between actual compatibility and just wanting something to fit.

(Ed. note: I was trying to be good about the dating thing but he reached out to me and I HAD to meet another person in their mid-30s who’d just left a 16-year relationship/marriage. It’s not exactly common, and hearing how much our experiences overlap has been so good for me. So if nothing else, it’s been phenomenal to talk to M.)


Free Falling

I’m sitting here on the sofa with the dogs snoring around me. It’s Friday night, the 4th of July. I have two books on the armrest: ビデオカメラでいこう by one of my fieldwork collaborators and heroes, and Ranciēre’s “The Emancipated Spectator”. I was reading and making homemade tomato sauce. Mostly, I was trying to ignore the ache that rose in my chest as soon as my housemate said he was going out.

But I’ve made progress.
I could have gone out tonight too, and I didn’t. I listened to the voice of my soul, which said that I am exhausted from almost nonstop manic socializing. I have been deliberately keeping myself from being still. It all catches up to me when I do.
But here I sit, deliberately courting it. What’s in there? I am asking? No really, let me see it…

I’ve been ignoring my inner voice for so long, because the emotional pain was too intense.
I was driving on Allen Parkway the other day as the sun was setting. This was before I got my car stereo replaced, and I was tired of trying to tune my iPhone through the radio adapter. I turned my own music library off, and turned on the actual radio- just in time to hear Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” start up.

That’s a song I’m sure many of us know almost by heart. It reminds me of warm days on the way to summer camp, listening to the radio in the camp van. I repeatedly got in trouble in that van for being too wild, for riling the younger kids up. When I eventually applied to be a counselor, the van driver made a point of saying that I was unsuitable. I wasn’t detached enough from the kids.

But I digress.

I started to sing along. “And I’m free. Free fallllllllin.”
I sing the chorus a couple of times at the absolute top of my lungs, so loudly that it occurs to me the drivers nearby might be able to hear. But I keep singing. And as the chorus starts again I, who am not prone to such things, find my eyes filling with spontaneous tears. I cry and sing at the top of my lungs.

I am sitting in Austin’s Graffiti Park on a perfect night, swinging my blue-tights clad legs over the ledge of a broken building. To my right is the kind of boy I only fantasized was real. A recent Philosophy Ph.D grad. He gets all of my theoretical references, but we both descend into juvenile humor just as often. We talk easily. I want to kiss him, but he’s moving to DC for a postdoc, and he doesn’t want to get involved with anyone now. He has a sly, cocky smile and unruly blonde hair. I love how his whole face lights up when he laughs.

Suddenly, sitting so close to the edge gives me a panic attack. I’m not afraid of heights, but I am afraid. I am afraid that every time I meet a boy like him, he’ll be moving to DC, and I won’t be.

When I text him later that I’d wanted to kiss him, he tells me he wanted to kiss me too.