The past three years have involved three heavy hits (a job that dissolved in weirdly nasty ways, the death of a god son, my mother’s illnesses and increasingly rapid descent/disappearance/dissolution into dementia). But they’ve also been years full of particularly wonderful stuff with my daughters and grandkids, the publication of a chapbook, and a deepening awareness of the long list of wealths I have to bring to my walking through these years—a remarkable, if slightly imperfect husband; two fascinating and loving grandkids who live very close by; the parents of those grandkids, whose marriage is a wonderful thing to watch unfold and bloom; another daughter who’s found a really good guy who makes her glow; students who give me more than I could ever give them; enough money to help with my mother (and, as I write this, to pay the three guys wrestling with the ivy that ate my yard while I was dealing with other things…); a network of remarkable friends and other writers; a strong faith community (though, if I don’t dial back on the stuff I do at/for church, the aforementioned daughters may take a shovel to the side of my head…). I could go on, but you get the gist—this is a privileged life. That never means that anyone is defended from suffering, of course, but it certainly helps to be able to go out for crabcakes on the spur of the moment and to have (bless its mechanical heart) functioning air conditioning.
Obviously, because I’m not teaching for these months, I’m left spending way too much time either worrying about Stuff That Needs To Get Done (someday my bedroom will get painted…), procrastinating (my one true genius), or wallowing/thinking. I do get some things figured out, a bit. And maybe it’s a good thing that this year I’m taking more naps and just zoning-out rather than frantically pushing myself to makemakemake. Turning 60 was/is a big deal, and it deserved at least some of the existential crisis it birthed. I suppose I’ve learned a fair amount about myself in the past three years—always a good thing, yes? Lots of buried crap about my relationship with my mother (if the Truth will set us free, I ought to be able to levitate by now…), my own relationship to creativity and life and faith and doggedness. Maybe a little patience with myself.
But what has struck me forcibly is that, at least for me, life is not generally a matter of feeling 50/50 or 60/40 or any other mathematically sensible set of emotions/emotional conflicts. It’s very often, maybe even mostly a matter of 100/100. I 100% never wanted to have any relationship with Pretty Good U after I got ground up in an institutional clustermuck, and 100% cannot conceive of not teaching. I 100% loathe my adjunct-ness and 100% adore my students. I 100% want my mother’s increasingly fragile and narrowed life to end and 100% do not want her to die. I 100% rejoice in making things, and 100% have nothing calling me to do so. I am 100% extroverted and 110% introverted, 100% bossy/dynamic/rebellious and 100% passive/goodgirl/compliant. 100% obsessed with my looks and 90% whogivesashit. And so forth and so on.
I conclude that I am a failure at The Dialectical. I conclude that I am (and am not particularly special in this) maybe pretty decent at The Paradoxical, The Oxymoronic, The I-Don’t-Really-Know-A-Word-For-It. Whatever it is, it isn’t balance, that’s for damn sure. It’s mostly like eating firecrackers for every meal and waiting for them to explode. I don’t think all of us are this way. I actually know a number of people who manage (some) balance, (some) equilibrium, (some) conversations with themselves and/or God that do not consist of nothing but shouting. I am pretty close to deciding that I just am this way and need to figure out how to make it work for me for however many decades of functioning brain I have left. I think enough humans share this trait for me to call it a kind of normalcy. Some of us are moderate by nature, or at least moderation-seeking, some of us not so much.
But it does make me feel like I’m caught in summer all the time—living in a cool house surrounded by thick, slimy, choking air. That the inside is not really safe because, even though it’s cool, it’s also a kind of prison. That the outside, even though it’s where the light and the alive things and connectedness are, is a deathly threat.
A little melodrama, anyone? 100%? A little normal, anyone? 100%?
As near as I can figure, it amounts to being 100% good for creativity and 100% choking. Which, I’m thinking, explains why this particular summer is maybe more discombobulated, clarifying, and cranky-making than usual.