Tag Archives: love

A Woman Walked By

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I was walking along River Road in the sun, staring at nothing. A little old woman with snow white hair, a blue blouse, and a pair of cropped khaki pants stood by the narrow road side, around one of the sharp turns by the narrow bridge. She regarded me with blue eyes that reminded me of my own. She said “Hello.”

I said Hello, and moved to trudge past.

She said, abruptly: “What would make you happy?”

I startled, visibly. “What do you mean?” My voice was trembling. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. They’d been shaking all day, since I’d been up most of the night with the fear returned to me so strongly that I thought I was going to die of it again. Or need to turn myself into a mental hospital for oversight to keep myself safe.

She waited, looking at me directly. “Honey, you know what I mean.”

I could feel the tears in my throat. “I just want to be happy.” I corrected myself, “But that isn’t what you asked me. I’m sorry.” I wanted to break down, just collapse onto the ground and wail until my voice gave out:  “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Instead I whispered to her: “Why am I never good enough?”

Her facial expression didn’t change. “You’re always good enough.”

“I just watched Fellini’s 81/2 last night,” I told her “One of the characters said two things: ‘I feel like I’ve made a mess of everything in my life. And my work.’ and ‘I’ve always forgiven everything in the men I love.’ Both of those things are true for me.”

She nodded. “So what would make you happy?”

“To be loved by someone who knows how lucky they are to have me. I’m tired of being the only one who knows that.”

The woman scoffed: “You’ll always be unhappy so long as you’re waiting for someone else to make you happy.”

I looked at my feet. “I know that. But …”

“But you don’t feel it right now. I know, I know. But you need to focus on your soul. And your fate.”

I must have made a face unwittingly because she continued:

“I know, I know, you millenials don’t like to believe in fate anymore. But-“

“I’m 35!”

“Same thing. But I assure you, you have a fate. You have a destiny.”

“No, it’s not the same thing,” I cried. “I have made a mess out of everything. I’ve ruined everything. And I’m already 35 and I want a do-over.”

“Well, aren’t you melodramatic. You sure like torturing yourself, don’t you?”

“…”

“This mess you’ve made, you needed to make it in order to get to your destiny. Now you need to figure out what would make you happy, without involving any other souls, and do that.”

She turned to walk back down the gravel path to the farm house, while I stood there in the sun, listening to the wind in the leaves, shaking harder.

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Why I Hate Dissertating (as it turns out)

Forgive me for not writing. I have been behaving as an adrenaline junkie and keeping myself manically busy, because when I slow down this is what happens:
1. I feel a sadness creep into my heart.
2. I begin to get really anxious
3. I start to think that anything, even oblivion would be better than this feeling, that it will never pass and nothing will ever be right again.
4. I berate myself for my incapacity to feel serene in the face of mere hours of solitude these days.

I used to love days spent alone at home writing. I used to love the quiet, the creativity of it. But then I started living alone (against my will), and it became too isolating while dealing with all the trauma of the past couple of years. I have developed this horrible routine, which I’ll sum up in another list:

1. Plan to get up at reasonable hour
2. Turn off alarm because the idea of dealing with another day is too overwhelming
3. Get up late, feeling guilty, sluggish, and a bit depressed
4. Sit down to write hours after I had planned to
5. Get seized by a wave of melancholy/anxiety that can only be thwarted by distracting myself
6. Don’t get anything done, or produce a mere paragraph of terribly written garbage
7. Settle into despair and stress

There are plenty of good things going on my life. I keep meeting wonderfully kind new people and trying all sorts of awesome new things. I am one month into a new relationship. But I don’t trust myself at all right now. I question everything I say and do around him, and am convinced he’s about to reject me and leave… I think this because I am not in a good place mental-health wise, and it must be, must be obvious. I keep getting this sense that I can tell him all of this and he won’t judge me, but I won’t because my fear that he’ll get freaked out is so much stronger. We’re generally a very good match in terms of the amount of contact/communication we need and expect, and that’s so important- but my current work-related loneliness has me in a zone that’s outside my normal level of need. It’s like… people/distraction desperation. I’m so beyond grateful when someone reaches out to me and helps alleviate the pain and loneliness that I almost cry constantly these days. Honey, if you ever read this… normal me is not this needy. Actually, normal me is even a bit too independent at times.

Something (obvious?) that occurred to me today that gets a wry smile: If you feel like you’re falling in love with someone after a month, and then the relationship falls apart, it seems a bit crazy and wrongheaded in hindsight. If it works out then it was simple romantic foresight. I dunno… so many things in new relationships are subjective, contingent on how both people feel. If the infatuation is imbalanced one person’s enthusiasm can come off as desperate, clingy, etc. It’s kind of like wanted/unwanted attention in other areas of life, y’know? Clearly I was married for too long, because I have so little tolerance for romantic uncertainty. It’s not exciting and fun for me, it’s just another way my life is a series of ???s at the moment.

I have a housemate set to move in on May 24. This can’t come soon enough- I feel like when that happens I’ll just EXHALE. I’ll be able to stop operating from a place of crazy desperation.

The Body Will Deal With What the Mind Won’t

So I mentioned I contracted the flu, right after Christmas. And unfortunately for me, I then had to drive the car my parents gave me cross country (well… North to South, not cross). I told you guys all of this. Anyway, when I went to see my shrink last Wednesday, the day my divorce was finalized, I was still coughing in the morning. That night I wound up meeting a guy I know who’s also going through a divorce (and with whom I have a lot of sexual tension, but I’ve told him I just need to be friends). We drank beers, and I bummed two of his cigarettes but didn’t really inhale. No really, I’ve been doing the “just suck it into my mouth” thing since I actually bought my own packs of cigarettes (age 18-19), and so I didn’t think weed did anything for me because I… never actually inhaled it. Like Bill Clinton.

But I digress.

The next day my chest felt a little tight, and I felt really low energy, but I chalked it up to staying out late and drinking three beers. And I went to a 90 minute, intense hot power yoga class. With a live DJ, even. They wanted us to hold wheel pose for 5 minutes, and I just couldn’t. The next day my chest was hurting even more, but I again went to yoga and felt like everything was much harder than usual, like the instructor was deliberately torturing me. By Saturday I felt as though my body had been stuffed with bags of sand, and the pressure in my chest was intense. It felt like someone was pushing down on me, hard. Like anxiety, but deeper in my chest cavity.

Having not received the necessary documents from J, I had no insurance of my own yet. And actually, I was surprised to find that I’d been off his insurance since Dec 31. I was stuck- with the pain growing worse, I searched for an urgent care clinic, cancelled my evening plans, and drove to a strip mall clinic that turned out to be closed. I sat for a while in the parking lot searching for anything open and nearby, and though the Bellaire ER didn’t have any statements on their website about accepting uninsured patients, I desperately made my way over there. I was the only patient in the entire building that Saturday night.

I had to turn down an X-ray, because it was just too expensive out of pocket. Without that, the doctor guessed that I have pneumonia, or bronchitus. Or bronchial pneumonia. A jolly nurse made me pull down my pants, so she could give me a steroid shot in the butt (IN THE BUTT!!), and I was left in the examination room for a while to drink my free Keurig coffee and contemplate how I’d gotten sick AGAIN. Or never really gotten well, I suppose. From not being sick for years, I descended into a string of bad colds and other ailments around when J and I decided to divorce, and I haven’t been able to go more than 1-2 months between illnesses since then. A short time later, while I waited for my antibiotics at the 24-hour CVS, (rather than going to watch movies with B), I contemplated whether this was my body’s way of forcing me to confront an emotional pain that I otherwise compartmentalized, and only dealt with in those brief moments when my sorrow managed to get away from me, to leak from beneath its lid.

It’s Thursday, and I’m done the course of antibiotics, but my chest still aches and my limbs feel heavy so I have gone almost a week with no yoga class (SIGH). I’ve been so exhausted and ill that I’ve spent most of the week on the sofa, convalescing. If this is my body’s way of healing my “soul”, then so be it. But considering how long this particular illness has been dragging, I hope it gets everything out of me for good this time.

(On a hippie friend’s advice I bought this sub-lingual B vitamin stuff at Whole Foods. Taking it is like pounding a shot of espresso, since I don’t usually drink caffeine. But even through the manic-hyperactivity, I feel the chest pain lingering.)

***

I just started reading the newest book by my former advisor. I put it off as long as I could, but I need it for my dissertation. I find it unbearable to read him, so GOOD is his work. He makes me want to give up, convinced that there must be enough brilliant anthropologists in the world already. I mean, good work seems good to me in a way that I cannot access; I have trouble remembering things- names are a particularly sticky spot. Names plus their major theoretical contributions are even more difficult. I’m good at imagining. I’m good at wordcraft. But I’m not good at details, just like my mother.

I am impatient with people in my daily life who think they’re smart because they haven’t really had to test it by matching wits with the absolute smartest in our society- no, the world. I’ve actually gone on a few first dates with such people this year. Accustomed to walking around feeling smart because of the company they keep, they have no idea how tired is their logic, how thin their justifications, how stupid they really sound. And I’m NOT a jerk, I’m not. I don’t let on that I’m thinking this (maybe that’s still being a jerk?), but try to gently challenge their arrogance. I don’t have the luxury of arrogance, unless I’m self-deluded. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone manages to be arrogant in academia anymore. Maybe it’s just personality. Maybe it’s that everyone is just deeply insecure and arrogance is the default posture of some.

Anyway.

In his acknowledgements, my ex-advisor thanks the woman he met around the time I first met him, and who became his wife. She’s an artist/art prof. There is something about the way he thanked her that made tears well up in my eyes. I want that. I want a creatively and intellectually stimulating partnership grounded in the fiercest of love. I might have actually met that person recently… he’s a playwriting/theater professor. I dream of writing some heartbreaking homage to him, (or if not him, someone else), when my dissertation becomes a book.

Get your naval-gazing b.s. right here

One thing that sucks about being me, or perhaps about being most humans, is “situational shyness.” Now, having an anxiety disorder, if I am awake, I am anxious, but certain situations paralyze me, while in other contexts I can be truly fearless…. right now I am sitting at one of my field sites, and I wrote and printed out a survey that I’d love people to answer, but I am terrified to hand it out. And I’m not sure why. I’m afraid of bothering people, afraid nobody will answer it, blah blah. I mean, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”, as my mom would say… or as my friend Kats would say “you need to GLOAF” (give less of a fuck).

I need to correct one thing I wrote, two entries ago. J and I had a misunderstanding about support, the house, and all of that. So I know he’s trying to do as right by me as possible, but I still go into a stress spiral every time i read an email from him. The last was about whether the dogs would be okay in Tokyo. They eat high-quality dog food that might not be available here, he argued, and Mei has prescription eye medication. Plus, they’re quite anxious and he doesn’t know how they’ll do on the plane ride. Maybe they’ll die.

My parents also really don’t want to take them in. In the whole world, I feel like the only person with any love for these neurotic beasts, and I actively want them with me. J’s really skeptical of that, and won’t let go of the idea of my parents taking them. All of this led to me torturing poor T on his day off with “Everything is going to be okay, right? We won’t go broke, right?” Etc. I made him reassure me about 10,000 times. He said “we have friends who love us and will help us.” But who’s going to help us with money if we need it? Seriously… “Hi, my dogs need a haircut. Can you spare 8,000 yen?”

I am terrified that by meeting T I am giving up my dreams of being a professor…. I have no evidence that he wouldn’t support me/us moving outside of Japan, but I’m just afraid. It’s weird how attached I am to academia considering how miserable it makes me 50% 80% of the time. I guess I figure it to be the only way to get to do the research I want to do, and publish as I want to… although getting paid well for my expertise would be nice. And I’m a recovering academic snob, always skeptical of people who didn’t choose to remain in academia, while jealous of those who have already succeeded in it.

Most of these people haven’t met a wonderful man who doesn’t speak English and is thus terrified of the U.S.

And T really is awesome. I am more impressed with him every day. When I go into a freakout, his face is amazing. It is so kind, and so loving, and so patient. His eyes crinkle at the corners as he looks at me, and reassures me that if we work together everything will be okay. It’s very odd to be simultaneously actively mourning the loss of one relationship while celebrating a new one.

But to get off my tangent, I’d probably be much happier being a freelance writer~ contemporary academia really sucks. Or maybe I wouldn’t. I should really cross that bridge when I come to it, eh? Maybe finish the ol’ dissertation first and then see how I feel? In the meantime, I also should gain more competence in Japanese. I can’t tell you how much rapport building and conversational contents I’ve missed out on by being stuck in this intermediate rut. Last night over cheese-fries and non-alcoholic beer (tastes like… shitty beer) with friends, I found myself thinking “I am THE MAN at Japanese.” Indeed, a friend’s wife started berating him because he’s lived in Japan for 6 years, and I less than 1, and he speaks almost no Japanese.

“See, Liz can do it! If you were less lazy…” she started in. “Why haven’t you learned Japanese yet?”

I mean, I think T and J are both incredibly lazy at times, but I never say so…. especially not in front of other people.

I was just thinking more about academia- I mean, most of the time I space out during classes and conferences, as I find listening to people read papers mind-numbing. And I think most of the hot button issues in academia are tedious and irrelevant as fuck, merely intellectual games played in a closed circle. We do a lot of good too, and the world genuinely needs anthropology and anthropological knowledge. But we can be such eggheaded douchebags too…. the competition makes me miserable, the ladder climbing and endless obstacle course etc. I hate it all… but I love it too. At its best it’s creative work that allows me a tremendous amount of freedom, and I get to read, talk about what I read, and produce original knowledge…. but I often feel much less engaged with the daily bullshit than most people.

Plus, most of the worst people I have met in the world are academics. Miserable, egotistical/insecure, cruel, elitist, asshats. And some of the best suffer from all sorts of mental health problems as a result of(?)the hideousness of contemporary academia.

I feel as though I should let fate deal my hand here.. I’ll work my hardest as always, but this year has proven that even when I think I have everything tightly under control, I don’t.

As a doctor said to me the other day, after hearing about the last year “Wow. You are amazingly strong to be this functional. And with an anxiety disorder? I’m in shock.”

You know, I’m kind of amazed too. I feel as thought I’m much more okay than I have any right to be.

And I swear, I’ll go back to chronicling my daily exploits, narrative style soon and stop with all the introspection.

RabuRabu

T told me yesterday that he likes ironing. This makes me adore him even more. Really, the man could be the perfect housewife, which is lovely because I am possibly the world’s worst housewife.

Wait, that’s not fair. I love making my own cleaning products from essential oils and putting them in little hand-labeled bottles. Oh my god, just thinking about it makes me cheery. In addition to loving home decorating, I love clean things….. but I really loathe cooking. I haven’t been able to get a handle on vegetarian meal planning for two for a week… in Tokyo, where there ain’t no Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s (my crutches in the U.S.)

I am also a total workaholic. I want to be the 1950s dad if T and I ever have kids… god, I can’t believe I even just typed that. When I was with J, I had convinced myself there was no way I’d ever want kids, as he didn’t want kids. I am slowly realizing now how desperately unhappy I was then (not his fault, our fault), and what a miserable crank I must have seemed to so many people in Texas.

When I am upset, T looks at me with the kindest eyes I think I’ve ever seen. They even crinkle in the corners when he smiles. He tells me he’ll listen to me any time.  And I threw out the man’s undies (see previous post).

I am starting to think I have a tweak about throwing things out. I hate clutter, and he (being Japanese) attracts it like a magnet. So when he says “This Starbucks mug is useless” I grab it excitedly and put it in the “freecycle/free on craigslist” pile. But then he grabs it back with a wounded look, saying “but it’s sentimental! It was a present!”

I worry that I am cold, because a useless (to me) present gets freecycled. Because to someone else it may not be so useless. Is that so wrong?

Right, it’s a lovely day and I am in my jammies still. Was supposed to Skype with parents at 9, but it didn’t happen because I was up until 3 feeling way way too genki. At 9 I wrote them an apology email and went back to bed. Until noon.

Maybe I was right that I should never have children 😉