Sunday, May 29, 2011
And so the world goes on, and as it does, I still sometimes find it hard to understand even the simplest things. I often ride the subway and notice young men with wedding bands on, and I think to myself 'how does something like that happen?' I look at their clothes, their build, the thickness or thinness of their wrists, their haircuts, shoes, and I wonder how people get into, and then stay in relationships? When did they make that decision? What does it take to want to share one's life with someone else, and how does anybody negotiate the kind of terms that that kind of arrangement would require? I imagine the kind of person that they're married to, or how long ago they might've met. I wonder if they're happy, if they communicate well and talk freely, or if they are uncomfortable when they go home, and perhaps even feel trapped, stuck, locked into a kind of melancholy existence; committed to staying with someone that they've grown apart from - in sickness and in health, till death do them part. Indebted to their word; to an idea of what they believe they should be.
I imagine their families and their in-laws, and what holidays look like for them. Are there children? Are there pets? I picture them in their pajamas eating breakfast, or checking in with their wives from the office, or making love in the shower. I imagine that they're probably so used to each other that they can anticipate one another's movements and physical responses, even finish each other's sentences, and it is all just beyond my comprehension. It's not just one particular type of person that I notice that makes me think this way, but all different types from every different classification of imaginable socioeconomic background - good looking ones, homely ones, well-dressed ones, fat ones, young ones; it just seems foreign to me - alien - not like something that other people have access to that I don't (which I guess is true, it is still illegal for me to be married in most states), but actually something that I just don't understand - like calculus - I know it is real, I know that there is probably a practical application for it somewhere, but I can't for the life of me figure it out.
It's not as if these young men are people I imagine myself being with, it's not like that, I'm not sexually fantasizing about them (not usually anyway), or even envying their position, it's that I can't wrap my head around how people work out their lives in this manner; married, sharing everything about themselves, intimate - for me it is implausible, mind-boggling. It's like people who abuse their children or their pets - I just don't get it. Certainly I can understand frustration and anger and lashing out at those closest to you, but only as the occasional, shameful, and much regretted, wrongdoing or outburst, not as a daily practice. For me it's the same thing with marriage, I understand it in theory, but not in practice. And of course, the fact that it happens to most people makes me feel very different and apart from. Even when I'm in a good mood, contented and happily going about my business and enjoying my day, I can see a guy on the subway, notice his wedding band and this thought process starts, and I begin to feel isolated and withdrawn.
Many married people that I know are unhappy, or are at the very least troubled and challenged in their relationships with their spouses. I find this puzzling. Happy marriages are certainly not something I'd ever had as an example in my childhood (apart from my grandparents, who were from an entirely different generation, and who were married to each other almost a hundred years ago). Successful and happy marriages are not even something I've seen a lot of in my adult life, and yet this paradigm of legally and religiously sanctioned pairing-off continues to be the social norm for most everybody despite relative proof to its success being improbable.
Do these observations suggest that I'm depressed? Possibly. Do they suggest that I'm cynical? Probably. And while difficult and often uncomfortable, this introspective, pensive, downward and darkening spiral encourages me to seek spiritual guidance and comfort. These dark questioning moments strengthen my relationship with an ever elusive Higher Power. Interestingly, it is often in these dark spots that I am most reassured of the intangible existence of that Power. It's easy to say that I am being carried and protected when all is light and effortless, but being brought through darkness with an unswerving knowledge that I am cared for and safe, regardless of my recurring feelings of separateness and isolation, strengthens my spiritual connection. In the same way that beauty can be found in what may be dark or disturbing, I often find grace in times of isolation and doubt.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Yes, my routine can become a little numbing, but lately I'm actually happy with what I've been doing. I'm glad that I'm able to be helpful to others, that I get to play a role in other people's recovery. I went to the Tombs last night, and the men there were grateful that I took the time to bring a meeting to them. I'm currently working with a newcomer who is as scared as he is enthusiastic. I'm also working with a recurrent relapser; frustrated, scared, and teaching me so much. Showing up for these guys allows me to feel useful, gives me a sense of purpose, and feeds my self-esteem. And while I'm not anxious or discontented, I am tired, lonely, desirous, frustrated, and I wonder if I'm ever going to feel like a settled grownup; a responsible adult with healthy relationships. I can understand how fanatical religiosity could be a welcomed reprieve from the disenchantment of daily life.
Last week I got together again with the fellow I mentioned in an earlier post. The tall, muscular, semi-regular sex partner with an awkwardly handsome nose who I was wondering if I might get closer with. We had our usual urgent and voracious romp, and then in the comfortable afterglow, he began opening up to me in a way that he never had before. He began telling me about himself, his feelings, etc. I welcomed it, but I also noticed myself shutting down. I was scared. And then, he began talking about other sex partners. A clear and loud mixed message of 'I like you but don't get too close.' Is this what I do? It was like a mirror. A painfully fragmented and cracked mirror. No, I don't talk about other sex partners with people I'm romantically interesting in, but I'm certain that I push people away in any number of other ways. Seriously, I'm a middle-aged man who feels like an adolescent (and often acts like one), and finally all this self examination is beginning to pay off. It would really be a shame if the world ended today right when I feel as if I'm on the precipice of some kind of personal transformation or breakthrough. Of course I know that this is all just practice preparing me for the next thing. I just hope that after all this laborious and painful work that the next thing isn't oblivion.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
It's been two days now, and finally some of the fever pitch hoopla over Bin Laden’s demise has quieted a little. Of course, the media frenzy will continue for quite some time, but at least the shouting and dancing in the streets has stopped. I’m very glad that some closure has been brought to a very difficult chapter in our recent history. I'm proud of our President, our country’s intelligence agencies, and our brave servicemen and women who have struck a defining blow against terrorism. An undeniably evil man has been eliminated, and I guess that that’s as good as a rabid animal being put down. But the euphoric celebrations, and the righteous grandstanding have made me a little uneasy.
National pride, quiet contemplation, and prayer are not mutually exclusive. A sober and mindful reverence for all that has been lost might stand as a greater example of American exceptionalism than triumphant celebration.
So while I understand the knee jerk reaction of singing “ding dong the witch is dead,” I also know that hate begets hate, and rejoicing in the violent death of anyone, even an evil mastermind, might very well highlight the basest of human conditions among us.