The hardest parts of life are the stretches in which nothing in particular is pending.
No deaths of family members, no unemployment, no cancer tests, no paid off mortgages or trips to Africa for safari, no births of children nor arrivals of new furniture sets, etc. Nothing in particular.
I suppose I might think differently if I weren’t divorced, but I am divorced, so I think what I think.
And what I think is that stretches of time in which neither crises nor victories seem to float on the air are dispiriting, at least as a divorced person. You’ve lost your partner in planning (let’s be frank, very possibly you never quite had them in the first place despite wishing you had, for those of us that are divorced) and if you’re divorced you’re likely not of school age any longer.
In short, there is a dearth of plans, of anticipation, and yes, even of fear that is difficult to bear.
It can feel as though you’re on a very long train ride to your own end times, and (this is risky to say but I’ll say it) there are times when you do that thing that all children tend to do—say to yourself (given that nobody else is listening), “are we there yet?”
— § —
I suspect that divorce is easier the younger you are. I also suspect that there are distinct psychological dimensions to it that are not to be taken lightly.
For example, though (as the crystal-wearing set, of whom I am not a member, might say) “forty is just a number,” the fact is that it is an important number. Divorced after forty has a particular flavor that is not especially pleasant, and this is not entirely a matter of personal taste.
The fact is that for others, too, the attributed identity and characteristics of an “over forty divorcée” are not at all the same as those of a “thirty-something divorcée,” despite the fact that the actual ages involved in such a comparison may be very near to one another indeed.
— § —
In short, there are a great many things that I could I suppose be productively doing, if productivity is measured in terms of simply having this rather than that, a little more rather than a little less, a little tidier rather than a little more cluttered, and so on.
But (and this is where I admit to perhaps still being in the throes of a mid-life crisis whose countours were only compounded by divorce) that sort of thing is difficult to get excited about.
After all, just a few short years ago you dreamed of changing—and of traveling—the world, and you turned down job offers from the United Nations, and you held in your hand rooms full of starry-eyed students looking to you for advice on What is To Be Done and How I Ought to Proceed in It All, and so on.
Now, you are on a long, straight, eventless train ride toward that final destination that by nature isn’t (and can’t be) an Experience of any kind for ontological reasons, and so it is that you’re hard pressed to lift a finger.
Because if all you’re doing is folding socks and pulling weeds, well hell, you have the next ten, or twenty, or thirty years to do that, and nobody’s looking anyway, damn it—so the rewards are rather small, particularly in juxtaposition to the unfortunate fact that is this particular ticket on the tracks and the wish you have (which cannot be granted) to switch to a different set of them.
— § —
I don’t know.
It’s easy to be envious of others. I try to avoid that.
It’s also easy to be jaded. I try to avoid that, too.
Or to be down on oneself. Also something to be avoided.
It often feels these days as if I’m trying to avoid things more than I’m trying to pursue things.
Let’s be honest—the job at hand since well before my divroce has almost entirely been about what I can avoid. How to manage life, in general, so as to avoid all of the Bad Things.
That has not changed.
I suppose that’s life in general, at least for people worth their salt. There are of course, the great majority of others who go and adopt the bad things as their own and revel in them. I’m tempted to say that’s almost the entirety of our society.
And sometimes it’s tempting to join them.
But thus far, I resist the temptation, for the most part.
— § —
I don’t know.
— § —
I’m not ashamed to say that over the last few days of monitoring developments in the Brexit affair, it’s not the actual politics that have made the largest impression on me but the figures and personalities involved.
I think John Bercow has become a minor hero of mine. I’ve just been to YouTube to watch him address the Oxford Union for an hour, and I enjoyed in very much.
Yes, this is the sort of thing that I do when I’m not working and the kids are not here, rather than—say—painting my basement, fixing my yard, or starting my own business.
— § —
I wrote in a review once that got rather good reviews in turn that the thing appreciated most about J.D. Vance’s book was that it illuminated the fact that choices matter. Even little ones. Even every day.
I think that’s also the sort of thing that Jordan Peterson has been talking about.
Perhaps it’s time that I go and read one of these people again, because I’ve arrived at that point at which I am doubting that, considered objectively, choices matter all that much at all, and as a result, I am struggling to bother to make them.
Yes, we live in a society in which once you’re past a certain age, you simply don’t matter.
No, I’m not going to become an activist about this. I think that’s as it should be, and that one of the gravest sins of the Baby Boomer generation is that they refused to Go Gently into That Good Night (and still do so, in fact).
But an intuition about what is right and proper and good on the one hand does not of necessity change the experience of living through the actual circumstances of what is right and proper and good on the other.
— § —
My time is nearly past. In another ten years it will be.
Did I do what I set out to accomplish?
No. But then I suppose (I say this now, with the benefit of a touch of the wisdom that comes with age) very few could have in my own case, and furthermore and for what it’s worth, very few do in the general case. And that’s the way it is and the way that it always has been and that, too, is right and proper.
— § —
What we need today, more than anything else, is clear-eyed truth-tellers.
I think at this point, my greatest ambition is simply to have the courage to be one of these.
From all indications thus far, it will require much more courage than I’ve managed to muster to date. And I’ve done a lot of things that (by my own standards at least) required more courage than I’ve often thought I had. Yet so it is that I must manage to travel farther still.
Wish me luck.
— § —
In the meantime, I don’t know whether to also ask that you wish me the dedication to paint some walls or that you wish me the self-possession to not care whether I do so or not as I continue to pursue the kinds of knowledge that interest me.
Uncertainty, Aron is thine other name.