i feel like this one is going to meander and it might get very dull and abstract so i apologize in advance for that, imaginary.
i’m feeling very lonely again these days. if you tell people you are lonely—i have discovered!—many of these people will say, ‘well there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.’ well yes. yes. of course there is. i’m not sure how that’s supposed to help anything, or how this has apparently become one of the great idées reçues* of our time, but i’ve been hearing this a lot. it’s a sentence that’s supposed to shut you up, i guess. and i guess it’s fair play, because your loneliness is not necessarily something other people want to discuss. (why did you bring it up in the first place? to feel less lonely! ‘make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely—they are always worse for dignified concealment.’) i guess friends is the key word in that sentence.
it probably is harder to find real friends as you get older. and that really is hard for me because i am a social animal, nose to tail. i don’t think of myself as this miserable lowing dolorous thing—which other people apparently do!—(of course i exaggerate)—in fact, i think that my natural love of society and fun is what kept me from turning into a miserable beast. my life was mostly miserable, but i’m not—i feel like love preserved me.
(an aside: my grandmother, who died last year, was one of the most loving people i’ve ever known, and she grew up in a terrifying brutal family. but love preserved her. and sometimes i felt like everything good in me had to come from her because there was nowhere else it could have possibly come from—but i know that isn’t true. she was a sweet beautiful but very fearful woman. we were never that similar, personality-wise. most of my good is totally mysterious to me; God knows where it comes from.)
being smart can make you lonely and can make it harder to find real good friends. well duh i guess. but this is something i’ve only realized recently. mostly because i only recently realized i was smart! yeah, i know. you’d think, doing a PhD in sanskrit at the university of chicago, at some point you’d step back and think, ‘huh. i guess i’m a pretty smart person!’ but my self-esteem has always been miserable—and you get used to a certain social environment—i just thought, ‘huh. most of the people here aren’t really all that smart, are they?’ it never occurred to me that obviously they were smart, and if they didn’t seem that smart to me, it was likely because i was smarter. (writing that sentence made me feel very weird and disgusting. but i had to make myself write it.)
it’s funny how Dolor, probably the smartest person i talk to on a regular basis, is probably also the only person i’ve met in years who has lower self-esteem than i do. (self-esteem is an ugly half-word and sort of an icky concept, but what can you replace it with? i guess i should look into it.) spending time with him and Tread-Lightly really got my brain going again and made me feel like myself. my own animal. i didn’t realize what i had been missing. how nice it is to be able to hit the ball to someone who can hit it right back to you.
now the old dull vague loneliness is growing into an active animal desperation—i mean a gaping screaming gnawing cavernous mix-all-your-metaphors lack—my mind wants stimulation all the time. it wants a companion. my heart craves. (craves what? a heart, a body? yes, everything. it just craves.) talking to Tread-Lightly over the weekend—yes, it is odd, but he’s turning into a real delightful friend—i’m not sure i could have a better time with anybody else in this city these days!—we got going on some long intimate conversations that stirred up all my longings. he (what a shock!) is more or less terrified by the idea of marriage—he asked me whether i believed in it.
T-L: but if you're married, then you have to sacrifice your own desires for the good of the marriage, right? me: i guess. sometimes. a lot of the time. T-L: but what if you got some offer to do something that you'd always wanted to do---for example say you got an offer to go off for six months on a lecture tour of ireland, going to all the places you love in ireland, your dream offer, but you have a wife and a four- year-old child at home? are you supposed to turn down the offer for the good of the marriage? you are! but how could you do that? could you honestly do that? me: uh…well. it's hard to say anything to this because you don't know who you would be married to. or how you would feel about your child. it's like talking about the past; it's like saying 'oh if X and Y hadn't happened in the past, things would be different.' but you don't know that, because you would be different yourself. it's the same with the future, i think. T-L: yeah, but marriage has been on the table for me. i've come close to marriage. well---it's been on the table. me: but…you didn't get married. and you're not engaged to anybody now. this is a stupid question. T-L: but do you think you could do it? me: yes! of course! i mean, if i had a wife---i would definitely want to get away from her. meet some irish guys. how did that even happen? did i marry for money, or what?
yeah…i am not big on Theory. in any case. several hours and about a dozen beers later that conversation reprised, suddenly i’m going on about how ‘i don’t just want someone to come home to, it’s more than that, i want to make the home someone comes home to’—(i want to be there making vegetable stock and playing my peter bellamy records—all full of kisses and congratulations, all gently smoothing out all life’s sharp edges, all bed and kitchen)—and at some point he said that i made him realize how much he actually wanted a home. ‘which i never even knew i wanted until this moment while talking to you.’
yeah. obviously it’s not the easiest friendship! not for the faint of heart. but it’s still better than most of them these days because i can be myself.
just about the only other place i can be myself lately is at the shrink’s—and in fact, i’ve been talking to him about how i think i might be suited for a mental health type career, and he’s sort of excited about that, i think—honestly, i’m so turned-outwards, especially lately, the only way i can motivate myself to keep up with life’s tasks is to think that if i preserve myself, if i can learn how to take care of myself, it will do some good for other people, i can communicate what i’ve learned…still, i can’t be nearly as much myself with the shrink. he’s honestly not that great. though i love him—as one does. he’s probably a B or a B+. say an 86. he’s not the quickest and his memory isn’t the best. and—and this is the weirdest, to me, because i’ve never experienced anything like it before—he talks a lot about himself! especially his painful divorce! i haven’t been in therapy for years, but i have had a bunch of therapists** in the past—including three pretty serious long-term ones. and (at least with the two good ones) i never knew anything about their lives—and i never wanted to, and i thought that was how it was supposed to be. but every week, i swear, my Dr. Forsaken tells me some new horrible thing about his horrible painful divorce—and though it shocked me at first, now i find myself looking forward to it! like, what creepy little fact will i learn this week, a propos of nothing…almost like he’s a regular at my bar.
(example: this week, he asked me if i’d ever had my IQ tested. i said yes and he asked me my score. then he got into a thing about how his ex-wife’s IQ score was probably ’15 or 20 points lower’ than his own—and so he wanted to watch ‘jeopardy!’ in the evenings, just for a little bit of mental stimulation for God’s sake, but she always wanted to watch a rerun of ‘friends’ because it was a comforting kind of background noise.)
(another: a few weeks ago i said i absolutely hated facebook. ‘it’s kind of a joke but i always say that it’s one of the great evils of our time.’ ‘well. i call it the marriage graveyard.’ thereupon a story about how the ex-wife got on facebook and started talking to an old flame and started cheating on him.)
uh i know every therapist’s style is different!—i’m probably used to more austere and traditional shrinks—but still i really don’t think i ought to know so much about this guy’s divorce. but the fact that i do—the fact that these anecdotes just come out of nowhere, at the least appropriate times—well, it makes him quite endearing. he might not be the best but damn it, he’s damn likeable. maybe like the therapeutic equivalent of the tipsy bartender. (damn it, he’s trying his best! have a heart, the man’s obviously got demons!)
recognizing his limitations…he is sort of becoming “the person i pay to hold me accountable for things.” not a trivial position.
* you might say it’s pretentious to leave this untranslated. i might say go to hell.
** one i was sent to because of my Affliction: because i was supposed to be traumatized, because talk-therapy was supposed to cure it. because apparently we still live in the fucking Dark Ages when it comes to medicine, at least when it comes to gynecology. however! though it did nothing for my actual physical problem, i did get all kinds of insights into myself; i talked to this warm kind motherly woman for almost three years. i got very attached to her. among other things: she taught me how to take a compliment.