Notes on Letting Go of Love Stories and Reviving Ancient History

6:22 AM (0 minutes ago)

to me
Yesterday was the first really hard day I’ve had in a while.
I think at some point, I actually cried, laid stunned on the couch in a way that I haven’t in quite some time, reeling under the weight of circumstance, feeling beestung and caustic in my bones, my blood sluggish with near-every thought exceedingly toxic.
It was good to cry though. I think I needed to cry.
Yesterday’s record low was not the result of a “depressive state” – it was the result of the fact that my life is sort of messed up right now, because I made a bad decision, based in fear and a perceived desire for something that I don’t really want at all. Though I told myself that I was being brave, I wasn’t.
I got caught up in something reckless.  I wasn’t putting my energy where it needed to be.
People got hurt, one friend and ally died because they thought I would be bothered if they contacted me and I compromised important opportunities…all in one fell swoop.
I thought for sure that I knew better than to go chasing Dionysian myths.
Then again, I do believe that most things – even terrible and hurtful things – happen for a reason, and I do think that the world sometimes conspires to teach us a lesson, or sets the grounds in such a way that the decisions we make will lead to creation or destruction. I am usually good at figuring out what I need to do, but sometimes there are tangles when nothing is clear and it is damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
I need to remind myself not to play those games.
A while ago, a year, maybe more, I made the statement that I am too socially vulnerable to try to have friends. I don’t know if that is the case anymore, as I have found ways to forge reliably genuine trust and connection with people…but, while I am not so socially vulnerable as I was, I am still socially confused and I don’t know how to safely participate in trusting, mutual intimate relationships.
Because my heart is a little weary when it comes to meeting the emotional needs of men who want me, I can be very callous.
I don’t want to be wanted. I never wanted to be wanted.
I just want to be able to do my work and to maybe have a hand to hold sometimes.
Yet, I have (or rather had) this persistent personal myth that I have a person out there, someone who will fit into my life like the proverbial puzzle piece and that being loved by this mythical person will somehow  embolden me, will somehow heal me.
That’s a myth. I’m not going to heal from people leaving by finding someone that might stay around.
I heal from people leaving by becoming strong enough to be comfortably alone.
It’s not just loss that I am healing from in regard to personal relationships.
I am also healing from being wanted, being commodified, being made an extension of someone else in ways that diminished my ability to be who I am and to do what I need to do.
So, I find the sense of being “loved” to be immensely threatening, because humans – myself included – don’t understand much about love.
Loving something or someone is not about them “being with you” – it’s about our capacity to honor the beingness of that person or thing, even if that beingness means that they cannot be with us in the ways that we want them to be or that their beingness precludes them being what we’d like them to be.
Love doesn’t begrudge or personalize what another person needs or wants. The issue with love of the romantic sort, is that it causes us to want something of the other person, to want them to be with us in a certain way…and we want it and we want it and we want it, because being loved and cooed to is so sweet.
I think most men just want their mothers.
There is a line from a song that for a while I misheard as “the opposite of love is the need for it” and I think I understand that idea: there is plenty of love in the world and if we tell ourselves that we need love, what we are really saying is that we don’t have gratitude for the love that is there, for the love we already have, which is abundant.
I have gone back to the radio and now hear the song about “watching you watching him” not as a story about a love triangle, but as my need to not let down the story or myself by defaulting to a stereotyped longing for the comforts of an imagined partnership or the seeking in another person what I ultimately can only find in myself and in my relationship with the bigger world.
Though it would be nice to have a hand to hold or someone to make a garden with upon waking up in the morning, I am not in a position to play dating games or spend hours negotiating relationship or explaining precisely why my momentary truth really shouldn’t hurt anyone if they are whole and truly love me. …but who is whole?
I am trying, still, to save my own life.
Rilke on love, 1/2 broken things and convention (from Letters to a Young Poet):”It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long secluded time, and therefore loving, for a long time ahead and far on into life, —–: solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would be a union of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent —?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves (“to hearken and to hammer day and night”), may young people use the love that is given them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough. But this what young people are so often and so disastrously wrong in doing: they (who by their very nature are impatient) fling themselves at each other when love takes hold of them, they scatter themselves, just as they are, in all their messiness, disorder, bewilderment…: And what can happen then? What can life do with this heap of half-broken things that they call their communion and that they would like to call their happiness, if that were possible, and their future? And so each of them loses himself for the sake of the other person, and loses the other, and many others who still wanted to come. And loses the vast distances and possibilities, gives up the approaching and fleeing of gentle, prescient Things in exchange for an unfruitful confusion, out of which nothing more can come; nothing but a bit of disgust, disappointment, and poverty, and the escape into one of the many conventions that have been put up in great numbers like public shelters on this most dangerous road. No area of human is so extensively provided with conventions as this one is: there are life-preservers of the most varied invention, boats and water wings; society has been able to create refuges of every sort, for since it preferred to take love-life as an amusement, it also had to give it an easy form, cheap, safe, and sure, as public amusements are. It is true that many young people who love falsely, i.e., simply surrendering themselves and giving up their solitude (the average person will of course always go on doing that—), feel oppressed by their failure and want to make the situation they’ve landed in livable and fruitful in their own personal way —. For their nature tells them that questions of love, even more than everything else that is important, cannot be resolved publicly and according to this or that agreement; that they are questions from one human being to another, which in any case require a new, special, wholly personal answer —, but how can they, who have already flung themselves together and can no longer tell whose outline is whose, who thus no longer possess anything of their own, how can they find a way out of themselves, out of the depths of their already buried solitude? They act out of mutual helplessness, and then if, with the best of intentions, they try to escape the convention that is approaching them (marriage, for example), they fall into the clutches of some less obvious but just as deadly conventional solution. For then everything around them is — convention. Wherever people act out of a prematurely fused, muddy communion, every action is conventional: every relation that such confusion leads to has its own convention, however unusual (i.e., in the ordinary sense immoral) it may be: even separating would be a conventional step, an impersonal, accidental decision without strength and without fruit…” Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke (pp. 68-74)
The Lumineers: Stubborn Love
Eric Hutchinson: Watching You Watching Him
Bonnie Prince Billy: You Will Miss Me When I Burn
So, moving on…looking back…finding some direction…it usually comes back to this:
Every day, this time of year especially, I think about how much I need to write a book about my favorite dead uncle.
Because I often think about several different things at once, I have thought about this almost constantly. It has been about 3 years since I opened up the box of papers and set his ghost free. How do I know there was a ghost? I could feel it. I got sick.
It’s true that I wasn’t particularly well when I decided to ask my father about Uncle Marcus’ letters, where they were. I don’t know why the subject of their existence even came up.
Maybe we were just mentioning family to the kids…telling stories?
I do know that I was surprised to find out that the box of letters and photos was here, in the mountains.
Then again, where else would it be?
I think I wanted to see his drawings because I was drawing a lot then, trying to keep myself sane by making lines and driving myself crazy with erasing them.
So, I opened the box innocently, just wanting to look at old things and think for a few minutes about my great-grandmother’s house and about the closet that the papers were in, on the shady side of the house, with the hydrangea an impossible blue beneath the second story window of the room with the cabbage rose wallpaper.
That room smelled like a dry, dark corner and the light in the closet was a bare bulb on a brittle string, that turned on with a decisively incandescent click to display in swinging shadows shelves of boxes and old rows of shoes, an officers hat on the wall with the words “War Is Hell” written across the top of the old canvas.
Someone wore that hat. In our family, we do not know exactly who. It may have been my great grandfather. It may have, somehow, been Marcus’.
We just don’t know.
We knew, though, that the letters were his, and that the drawings were his. We know this because he signed them and because his sister, my great-grandmother, told us. She was the one who saved them, all that proof of the brother that she had lost.
He was a legend in my family. The story was endlessly told about how about how he had once ran away to the circus, and I knew he had “died in the war.”
They say that he was “special, an artist.”
When I was young, and wanting to draw pictures, people would remember him. I don’t think I ever identified with him though, except to wish that I might be special, too and to long to have enough bravery to run away to the circus.
It’s funny to me, in a way that causes me to smile my most wry smile, the one with a little smirking disgust at the edges, that my family is so full of scandals that nobody ever talks about.
We did not speak of the way my father’s mother ran away to marry her professor, or how it was that he came to leave just after my father was born. We did not speak of how her father killed himself or the way my great grandmother would drink into the night.
By the time I was a child, she had been sober for years and was missing a breast. I never have thought, until right now, how much of a fighter she was, how she managed to stay alive for so long.
I knew that I was lucky to have known her.
Why have I never wanted to write a book about her?
She was the one who taught me to play cards, after all. She was the one who taught me to tell stories.
Why has her ghost never clamored at me the way her brother’s has, nagging “Tell my story, tell my story…” I suppose she is a different sort of ghost, though it’s possible that she would want her brother’s story told.
Why else would she have saved his papers and drawings?
Perhaps it is her, not him, that is nagging? Maybe it is both, doing as children do, which is to try to get what they want, to get what they need, to have their voices heard in the telling of their secrets.
Somehow, in some little crevice of history, they are in a kitchen together and it is 1901. They are sitting on the floor, under a table, arranging beans in patterns, and hoping that they can stay there for awhile, under the table, where it is a little dark and the cook’s beloved brown legs are ropy and strong at the stove.
There is the smell of fat frying and rain falling.
They do not know where their mother is. They do not know where their father is. They do not care.
They are playing.
It is in this that I find again the power of writing, the power of story. With words, we can bring things back to life.
That is what I want to do. In the meantime, it’s been raining for four days and Egypt is Egypt and Snowden is Snowden and a friend is in the hospital while I think about sweeping the floors. I’ve put in notice at my job. I got denied financial aid.
The motherboard on my good computer was destroyed the day before yesterday by something electrical that, hours earlier, had caused the smoke alarm to go off in the living room.
I have a speeding ticket that I need to pay.
There is a lot to talk about, a great deal to discuss.
It is Saturday and I am still alive.

Is there really anything to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s