“Never again is what you swore the time before”

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“What sticks to memory, often, are those odd little fragments that have no beginning and no end” –The Things They CarriedTim O’Brien

She waited for him to come to his senses, emerge from the sleep they had been enmeshed in for months, possibly even years. But no, the deep voice of stability and the grip of a steady hand continued to greet her each day. Perhaps because they had each already gone grey before finding each other and understood the calculus of what each had given up versus what each had gained by being together, the radical madness of young, unbridled romance was missing. But no, the electric tingling and orgasmic singeing of the fingertips, fire spreading rapidly to the internal organs, betrayed not just a lust one associates with youth but also an abiding and unretractable love, warmth and a mutual, complicit almost-ownership the likes of which neither had felt before.

Still, the emotional safety brought about by his reassuring adultness never quite allowed for the erasure of this nagging voice, whispering repeatedly before crying out, “Any minute now, he will come to his senses,” even as he spent long afternoons tending their garden, year after year, putting seeds into the ground that would not come to fruition for many more years. He was firmly rooted, encircled by and entwined in a whole world of nourishment. Watching him working, she wondered whether she had ever seen something so basic and beautiful.

But her nagging inner voice was accompanied by nagging ears, ears opened to listening to the sounds echoing from the past. Phantoms sometimes returned to haunt after many years, singing songs of regret, lament, actions not taken and whole imagined lifetimes not lived: “But sometimes it would strike me suddenly, watching you walk across the room: ‘fucking hell she is beautiful’. Those lips, those eyes, the high cheekbones. It was arresting and would take my breath away. But I couldn’t act. I couldn’t show you those parts of myself.” Hollow words spoken as a long overdue attempt to display some sensitivity that never existed. Empty attempts to make what had happened seem more substantial, as though he could have taken all that time back and redone it, even though in reality, he never would have wanted to in reality. Idealizing vague memories decoupled from what actually was.

Are these old admissions from a derelict entanglement even worth listening to? No, never again – again. No, the garden grows and grows with nowhere for weeds to hide.

Weekend gardening

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I sit soberly reflecting, asking myself if I will look back in a few months, entangled in a much bigger mess than I had ever imagined, wondering how I got here. Or will I, next year, find myself reflecting on this very sober moment, realizing that it was precisely this moment – the point at which I knew I was in over my head but proceeded anyway? The garden overgrown with weeds.

The process is a bit like pruning neuroses we have driven ourselves to. I’ve just finished reading Doris Lessing‘s The Golden Notebook and am surprised by how much of the way a woman’s nature is described rings true. Not so much that every individual woman is as the main characters are, but there are universal threads we can all sew together or unravel at different times in our lives. Seedlings to plant and weeds to uproot. Still, it’s demeaning to the self in many ways to succumb to the pedestrian motivations of jealousy and possession. But in many ways, at many times, it is the trap we get caught in no matter how we insulate or guard against it. The book so well captures that twisted dichotomy: you could be the most accomplished, polished, intelligent, beautiful and sophisticated woman but still wither away in petty jealousy about something – or someone – so insignificant and so unworthy of your attention.

“Don’t you think it’s extraordinary that we are both people whose personalities, whatever that word may mean, are large enough to include all sorts of things, politics and literature and art, but now that we’re mad everything concentrates down to one small thing, that I don’t want you to go off and sleep with someone else, and that you must lie to me about it?” -from The Golden Notebook

I recognize this, but I don’t completely understand it intrinsically. I have seen this happen time and again in other people’s lives.  It is not that I have never felt a hint of jealousy, but it has never been a pure and blinding jealousy that refused to view all the different angles of a situation and other people’s feelings within situations. I don’t understand the limitations of love – or even sex. That reductive impulse that demands ‘you will love (or fuck) only me’. It’s not that there’s anything at all wrong with wanting, having, expecting or engaging in monogamy. It’s the mania that motivates and demands it. Are we really wired this way? Is it not the sense of being cast aside, ignored, not loved any more that makes people jealous and hurt?

We are after all taught from earliest childhood to share. How and why are we so territorial then with our love, our feelings, our bodies and the pleasure we can give and receive?

It’s more complicated than that, of course.

maintenance

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While I throw away all this old stuff, I should be acquiring some new because I do actually need to wear clothes.

Instead, I am comparing string trimmers for the yard and stuff like Roombas and their Cylon-like, independent lawn-maintenance cousin.

I really need to take better care of my yard. Considering tearing down the toolshed and building some kind of fenced-in garden or greenhouse or something. I am just not a born gardener and don’t like plants (that is, to care for plants). It’s all lovely when I am not the one pulling the weeds.