Tuesday, January 1, 2008


The gout’s been acting up lately. This has been and on and off issue since I turned forty. Normally, it’s dormant. The occasional flare-up is usually dispatched with a prescription anti-inflammatory. Not tonight. It’s 3 am on the first day of 2008, and getting to sleep with something that feels akin to a broken toe has proven impossible.

I’ve wanted to be thin again for a while, and the good news, I suppose, is that this month I’ve been losing weight like a cancer victim. Two new belt notches in five weeks. Impressive. I wish I could say this has been achieved through macrobiotics and aerobic exercise, but the truth is, I’m smoking again and my appetite has pretty much gone to hell.

Call it divorce as a weight-loss strategy. Very effective, but not especially recommended.

These last few sentences represent a blogospheric crossing of the Rubicon. A few months ago — during the whole Unite to Extend Homelesness flap — I was talking to Rosette and Cyd about the complexities of saying what I really think.

“There’s things that I just wouldn’t write about,” I said.

“Like what,” challenged Cyd.

I paused. “My fucked up marriage.”

We all stared at each other for a moment. And then we changed the subject.

This is why emotional firewalls exist. Reality is sometimes awkward.

But now, the shape of my intimate life, or lack thereof, has become widely known. Word is out in all directions. The failure is public.

Separation — defined by me at the moment as the state of being done, with all other decisions yet to be made — looks like a room in an unusually monastic college dorm.

I live midway between home and work. Most days I drive in both directions. Holbrook Road running into 15th is my life's artery.

I am in a church building. There is a bed, a desk, a reading lamp, and a space heater. I sleep beneath a comforter and a thirty-year-old quilt made by my grandmother. I have thirteen books and my guitar. There is a photo of my kids. I have my laptop. Open wireless networks abound.

This, for a little while, is enough.

The absence of inessentials has, in some ways, returned me to myself. This, as you might imagine, is a mixed bag.

The dissolution of a twenty-year relationship is about as big as it gets. For me, the question isn’t why it’s over. That seems clear. The more interesting problem is why we continued.

Almost fifteen years ago, after a very rocky period, we made up by getting married. There were some good years and some very bad ones. Seven years ago, we could have divorced, but decided to have kids instead. Then, we bought a house, even as I privately wondered how long we could last.

Why do we do the things we do?

I suppose we get used to it. We fear change. We accommodate. Not an especially honest way to live, but hardly unique.

And then, one day, generally at a time not of one’s choosing, it just stops working altogether.

When my lifelong ADHD was diagnosed a year ago and Adderall entered the picture, it was immediately clear the game had changed. There would, I knew, be a renegotiation.

Few readers of this blog will be surprised to hear that I am easily bored and have a large personality. This used to come and go, but was mitigated by a certain amount of withdrawn distractibility.

Since the diagnosis, I’m “on” most of the time. From my own perspective, this has been wonderful. I am less overwhelmed. As the noise in my head has subsided, I notice and appreciate people in ways that once escaped me. I am becoming who I am, and feel more like “me.”

In some ways, that works out well. In others, not so much.

Life is change. Often, it’s for the best, but that doesn’t make it easy. 2008, for me, will be a year of renegotiation and rebuilding. Life’s a river. I’m in it.


Bill said...

Your last comment, "a year of renegotiating and rebuilding," reminded me of a book I cherish, "Repair: The Impulse to Restore Things in a Fragile World," Elizabeth V. Spelman (Beacon Press, 2002). It sounds on surface like the dreaded self-help book, but it is well beyond that. Spelman teaches Philosophy at Smith College (or did at the date of publication). I commend this book even when not needing renegotiation and rebuilding. I have been through 2 periods that include a divorce and a separation-near divorce-reconciliation. I didn't have this book nearby until after both episodes had settled, so I am not sure what it brings to those in the midst of brokenness, except that maybe it could help discernment as to "what brokenness" may need attention. Since I am the only fool to post on this so far, I'll use some space. First, Spelman writes about what one does when encountering damage and what that can mean. She concludes a section along this thinking with a story, "My mother always said, 'A patch, my dear, is never a disgrace, but a hole...that is.' In 1943 a neatly mended patch or a darned hole in a sock is a badge of patriotism. But no matter what the date or year -- even if the threads or material do not match -- a patch or darn will always mean a badge of self-respect." My short morale would be, a visible effort at repair of some sort -- not meaning full reconciliation as the only repair -- brings a sense of integrity for oneself. Spelman later goes into what holds memory. She writes: "To the old saw, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,' we sometimes must add: 'Don't fix it even if it is broke.' If the story of which we are reminded by the shattered vase is better told by the vase in shards than the vase visibly or invisibly mended, then its repair would in effect destroy the object in its prized state. Even if, as we learn from the Japanese aesthetic referred to as 'wabi,' visibly repaired teapots can be more beautiful than unbroken ones, the creation of such beauty through repair might destroy the power of the still broken object to carry memory. Though visible repairs can be vehicles of memory, objects left broken sometimes are better repositories of memory than visibly repaired ones... The difference between visible mending and invisible mending -- between the palpably fixed teapot and the apparently never torn jacket -- is the difference between revealing and hiding such history, between exposing and burying the evidence that there was a state of brokenness." Yes, written by a philosopher. The reconciliation that happened for me took 5 tries over 2 years, and that included my moving my whole 14' truck's worth of belongings up and down the west coast, CA to WA, WA to CA, 3 times. If you ever need a rental truck driven up or down I-5, call me. Most friends and colleagues had long since abandoned their initial (generally toxic) advice about what to do with the absent marital partner. It eventually came down to us, and then it eventually came down to -- and will speak for my part in it -- me. Run and run and run and the one person I never could escape was me. Same, in her own way, for my spouse. So the wrod in all this that matters to me is "reconciliation." It is hardly, maybe never, mentioned in Spelman's book. I think that is because it requires something that is beyond the philosophizing around objects. It requires death and life. These become faith terms a lot, but they stand alone and have meaning without turning them into faith issues. The greatest writers have followed their wisdom. In what ways must there be some dying, and to what? In what ways will life continue? We often see those small green shoots on life on the old wizzened stump in the forest. Ask, what are those right now? Each person in your household sees unique shoots. It will take time and space for life, not shoulds, oughtas, or gotchas. You of all people fleeing (my word) to a cell in a church. What an interesting start for reconciliation, but hey, I am the one always looking for the pony in the room full of shit. Oh, and deep breaths help too.

Sally said...

There will probably be no more posts here as several more entries have been made by Tim. However, that may ensure that I will maintain the public record for the most reconciliations during the longest period of time: 17 reconciliations in 34 years. The last one didn't take, so my personal record will be unbroken. Luckily, neither children nor marriage was involved, but nevertheless--to paraphrase Bill's immortal phrase--there was always quite a bit of shit in those rooms, and there always seemed to be a partially-hidden but discernable pony.