It’s been happening, every now and then, since that week in July.
I will begin to cough. I will cough more and more, with less and less control. And then, I will begin to vomit. Whether my stomach is empty or full. Whether I previously felt fine or not.
And it will overtake me.
— § —
I know that she would have been terribly worried if this had happened when we were together. But it wouldn’t have. I know that this is one of the few things right now that would cause her to really move to a place of complete, cautionless caring about me and my well being in the present. She’d be concerned for my physical health, insistent on lifestyle changes, forget about where we’ve done and how she feels, at least for a moment.
But I know, without a doubt, that this has nothing to do with my physical self-care. This thing, that happens, that overtakes me every few days, has everything to do with my mind, my feelings, and my soul.
— § —
I may be able to reason my way through a lot of things, even the difficult facts of everyday existence that I face these days—but my body is having none of it. It is trying to purge me of things. Uncomfortable things. Impossible things. Things that I struggle, at the deepest level, to accept.
That people who love one another can also hurt one another.
That happy families can be erased, just like that.
That someone who once cared about you above all others can stop caring.
That I am as responsible for all of this as she is, each in our own ways.
That the line between “emotional health” and “character” is nonexistent.
That you can’t separate the best in people from the worst in people.
That I am not who I thought I was.
That she is not who she thought she was.
That it is possible that we don’t live happily ever after.
That my children are living this.
I can be strong mentally. I can bear a lot of things in a way that enables me to function. But there are times when my body simply fights back. It wants to purge these things, to purge me, to purge all of reality right out of itself and of its systems. I go numb, I feel nothing, and within a few minutes, I am over the toilet.
Afterward, the numb goes away and all of the disgust and pain and fear and disappointment and denial come raging back, as my body fails to reconcile the tensions.
It’s the afterward that’s the worst; the moment at which I have to face the fact that none of this is going away.
I have to accept it and I have to make sense of it.
Or, in any case, I have to live with it.
— § —
There is a phase in every adult’s life, I imagine, in which an individual is compelled to gradually leave all of their cultural training behind. To finally and truthfully admit, even if they have previously seemed jaded and worldly, that they have at some level always been a product of their own culture and its fantasies and conventions, and that these are really, actually—as they may long have argued but secretly never themselves believed—fantasies.
It is the moment at which they transition from “young” to “old,” the young being those that in fact seem to grasp the cultural zeitgeist and the old being those that seem not to care about it any longer, to live beyond it.
I see now that the transition is not an easy one, and in the cases of the old people I’ve known throughout the years, it may not have even been a choice or personality quirk as I’d previously thought. It is a form of knowing and experience, one that is deeply difficult to accept.
All of this, all of it, is window dressing and marketing. The facts are the facts. No matter how cherished the stories and the values and the norms, they are all ways in which the young try forever to collectively make sense of the nonsensical—of life and its suffering and its paradoxes.
When an individual has to face the fact that the attempt is destined to fail—that all of it inescapably is what it is, that paradoxes cannot be resolved, that and there is no path, immoral or moral, by which to avoid the suffering—that is when the unstoppable transition from “young” to “old” begins.