Reading back through years of posts here, I’m shocked at how far I’ve come and how much I’ve changed. I suppose it all stands to reason; people grow, gain wisdom and experience, age into a kind of good humor that most of us recognize as being age’s unfailing counterpart.
Even so, I don’t honestly remember feeling as out of control, or as dark as some of the posts in the past clearly are. The old Defarge/Knit! posts from my years at the University of Chicago show a young malcontent—at once both smart and deliriously stupid—clearly losing his shit. I’m glad I wasn’t accepted into the Ph.D. program there because I’d probably have gone. Looking back at those posts now, it’s obvious how that would have turned out. I wonder if I’d have even survived.
Certainly I’d never have had the chance to teach at university for years, to be a marketing manager, or likely to ever do much of anything again. I’d have consumed myself well before I finished. I almost finished consuming myself while I was there.
— § —
The other reason I’m glad that I was’t accepted to, and didn’t attend, the University of Chicago for my Ph.D. is of course because I met my wife in New York at The New School.
Even then, as we met, and long before we married, people that read me regularly contacted me to ask what had changed in my life. They said they could tell, just by reading, that something was different for me than it had ever been before.
And it was.
Whatever else has happened since we met, married, and became a family with kids, I can see here just how much life changed for me—for the better—when I met her. I honestly wonder whether I’d have survived as long as I have without her. I wasn’t burning the candle at both ends; I’d thrown the candle into the fire and I was about to jump in after it. New York was like a last chance at some sort of a real, regular life. By some miracle, I found it when she found me.
She was the first and only person to ever make me want to be a responsible adult.
I used to think I missed the wild creative energy that I felt in years past. I suppose I still do sometimes, but the cost was high.
— § —
“They’re a family, a family together, just like it should be.”
That’s what M— said tonight as we all sat together at mom’s house while she played with four large holiday ornaments, just before they disappeared into the closet for the year.
Before that moment, I’d felt a kind of bittersweet ambivalence about them. They were strange to me, bought by my wife after our separation, a symbol of everything that is exotic and, at times, frightening about the present. Yet at the same time, they were just the sorts of ornaments my wife—whom I know very well and in whom everything in the universe that is familiar lives for me—would buy. Impish. Rustic. Playful. Cute. And so they have for weeks been familiar at the same time that they were unfamiliar, lovable even as they seemed in a way to represent love’s failures, at once elements of home and elements of the strangest, most forbidding land I’ve ever visited.
And then M— made them into a little family, together, just like it should be.
Many forty year old men tend to think that they’re beyond being touched by kids’ play, but many also aren’t living the combination of deep love and insistent awkwardness, of dreams of togetherness matched with a reality of apartness, that we have been living now for months.
For M—, it’s all very simple. Together as a family. Like it should be. This forty year old man was touched. And challenged, challenged by a little girl to grow. And full of love, for all of them.
— § —
For his part, O— decided that one ornament in particular, the one that my wife was making talk, was called “little one.”
That had much the same effect.
Bittersweet is the wrong word, in fact. They’re not joined, these two things; they don’t touch one another. It’s “each,” not “both.” Separate and simultaneous, two feelings pulling in their own directions and quite separate from the other even as they both live inside me.
Much love. Much uncertainty. Much love.
— § —
Sailors run aground
In a sea change nothing is safe
Push us every way
In a stolen boat we’ll float away
— § —
I love my wife. There is precious little truth in the world, but at the end of the day, that is one invaluable piece of it, come what may, mean whatever it may for the future. Our future, one hopes. One hopes very much.
I believe it, with everything I am. And yet, at the same time, I also know that I believe it because I have no choice but to believe it. Seventeen years of blogging tells the story well.