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Reasons I have no reason to feel lonely and/or sad

April 18, 2011

Let’s start with reasons I have no reason to feel lonely, shall we?

1. Because I live in a town where I see friends–often more than one friend, and often several times–every day.  For instance, last Thursday morning I went to yoga, where I saw…er, this one guy I’ve met a million times whose name escapes me (happily, the yoga teacher addressed him directly during class, and I chanted his name like a mantra for the duration).  After class, I felt very proud when I could properly greet him (first! A definite first!) without wanting to crawl up the wall backwards to escape before it became obvious that I had no idea who he was. The whole thing really blows, especially since he seems to be a genuinely nice guy who remembers every single detail of my life and my kids’ lives, and always references specific conversations we’ve had that I don’t remember having, and while I feel certain he has a wife (or husband) and kid(s?) whom I’ve met and even talked to at parties, I cannot for the life of me remember their names or genders or how many there are.

So that was a minor triumph. (Thank god this website is anonymous, though, because I have now forgotten his name again. John? Job? Jeremy? Jasper? Jesus. I’m pretty sure he’s medium height, with brown hair. And glasses. Or contact lenses, or something. Let us continue.)

2. Because that same afternoon I chatted with my classics professor friend in her office before going to give a guest lecture to her students on Euripides (the Bacchae as meta-theatrical masterpiece; only one student openly fell asleep), then picked up my younger son at my friend-who’s-back-from-France’s house, where I had a beer and a companionable chat before going home to feed both kids and take them to simultaneous (but mercifully proximate) baseball games, where I sat with two more friends on the sidelines.  These last friends’ first-grade daughter, whom I’ve had a special affection for since she was a baby, greeted me enthusiastically before whispering to her mom that I looked “like a teenager”. Then she begged her mother to be allowed to invite me over after the game. (So that we could braid hair and look at boys’ Facebook pages, I assume.) When it got so cold that the tobacco juice we were spitting froze with a crack in the air, the four of us huddled together to keep warm.  (Foreign?  Confused?  Click here.)

3. Because I had the kids for the rest of the week, per my request. (I’d missed them when I was in Rome, and my ex-husband was ready for a hiatus.) And because on Saturday night I made dinner for consoling-windows friend and her husband and my boyfriend and his kids and my kids, and we drank several bottles of red wine, and I laughed so hard my face hurt the next day, which–miraculously–dawned hangover-free. On Sunday my older son got a ride to his distant soccer game (another benefit of our small town–kids hitch rides with each other as a matter of course, which is convenient when you’re not the chauffeur, and informative when you are. Eavesdropping from the front seat is even more revealing than hacking their email accounts or reading their dopey text messages, I’ve found.) Meanwhile, the rest of us played and squabbled and trashed room after room and ate every morsel of food for miles around and everything was cozy and fun. The house felt full to bursting; you could hardly swing the rapidly growing cat without hitting someone. We had a busy and noisy weekend, a hectic and messy weekend, a thoroughly wonderful weekend–my first weekend at home under normal circumstances in quite some time.

4. Because on Monday, consoling-windows friend and I drove around all morning feigning productivity and buying plants at the Secret Greenhouse (hidden in someone’s back yard and only open sometimes; consoling-windows friend is the only person I know who can find it) for our windowboxes and gardens. Then my younger son came home with his best friend in tow for the first of a week of half-days, and the three of us ate a companionable lunch together. The afternoon brought a parent-teacher conference, the long overdue completion of a long overdue assignment, a baseball game, a make-up piano lesson, and, finally, yoga (accompanied by my younger son, who read on the sofa in the studio because his brother was still playing baseball). Cue supper, story and bed.

5. Because Tuesday was similar–half day, half-assed attempt to work, an extra kid joining us for lunch and afternoon chaos, the usual evening confusion, supper, story, a talking-in-sleep child in my bed, and an insane cat galloping through the house at regular intervals during the night. When the alarm went off Wednesday morning, she was sitting right there on my pillow, staring at me with wild yellow eyes.

6. Because on Wednesday night, when the kids (finally!) went to their father’s house after he came home from the lab, I took a deep breath, brought daffodils to my back-from-France friend who’d given a big academic talk that afternoon, drank wine and chatted with her, and then went to my classics professor friend’s house for supper and a DVD before making my way home.

7. And because this is why I stay here, why I still covet my ex-husband’s dream cottage (the best rental option in town, as far as I can tell)–because this particular enclave is the easiest, funniest, best place I’ve lived in my entire life. It’s like college all over again, with people you know and like (or know and don’t like, the better to gossip about with the people you do like) everywhere around you all the time. I am forty-three years old. Until we moved here, I had never lived anywhere longer than three straight years. Against all expectations, I’ve been here for almost ten, and while there are a million reasons I’d love to leave, there are also several million reasons why I won’t. (Yet, anyway. I keep that “yet” firmly in my pocket.)

I am constantly asked by friends and family why I don’t just hang it up and move somewhere else–why I don’t get a job in, say, Istanbul or Bhutan, or move in with my boyfriend (those who suggest the latter can be forgiven, since they live in my boyfriend’s city and have selfish reasons for wanting us to move there)–as if my ex-husband doesn’t exist, as if I’d take the kids away from their school and friends and the only home they’ve really ever known. The funny thing? I’m the very person who always insists that stability in childhood–that holy concept no one dares to deliberately defy–is overrated. I’ve made a point, my whole life, of repudiating claims that my upbringing must have been unhappy or that my psyche must have been permanently scarred because my family was so peripatetic. I have always insisted I was enriched, not impoverished, by our family’s constant roaming. So now I’ll make a point of telling you, too: truly, I never felt deprived or lonesome or sad, only excited and happy as my parents and siblings and I packed and unpacked, as we drifted together hither and yon. Why, my sister and I even wrote our college essays about how much fun we had moving around, for crying out loud. (“How interesting it is that you’ve given your children the stable childhood you never had,” my brilliant headshrinker once told me, and I don’t quite know how to convince her that was never my intention. And if I have? It was an accident, I swear.)

Anyway, my point is simply this: I love the town we live in, the people we know. (The house will still go back on the market next year, so if you’re interested, email me privately. You, too, can live in this wonderful place!)

So those are the reasons I have no reason to feel lonely, and they’re all perfectly sound and solid and good.

Now, the reasons I have no reason to feel sad:

1. This weekend, my boyfriend and I worked in my yard, and while trimming the ivy in front of my house I found a baby snake. It was cute, and brown, and curled around my gardening glove in a friendly way while flicking its needle-thin tongue. Eventually I set it free next to the fence by the neighbors-whom-I-don’t-like’s yard–though I think it probably slithered back to my front patio. It made me happy, that little snake in the yard. Simply being outside, picking up sticks, pruning deadwood, raking up debris and planning my flowerbeds made me happy in a way it hasn’t in ages. For the last five years or so I’ve been too solipsistic and miserable to enjoy things like working outside on a chilly, sweet-smelling spring day, and I worried I’d never enjoy them again. But I will. I already do. I cut back the butterfly bush I planted the first year we lived here (it’s huge, all gnarled and ancient looking now) to foil the leaping, suet-stealing squirrels, and I refilled the birdfeeder, and this morning the squirrels were roaming around its base all furious while a tiny yellow goldfinch perched on top, nibbling nervously at seed after seed after seed.

2. Because a kind friend actually did my income taxes for me. My taxes are vexingly complicated. I am scared of coping with money, and I’m also scared of math, so having them finished (and electronically filed, no less) made me weak with gratitude. Still, my tax attitude is improving, because I’d done a bunch of the groundwork in February while getting my older son’s financial aid application ready. Maybe next year I’ll have the wherewithal to tackle the whole thing myself.

3. Because said son got a lot of financial aid, thank all the Olympian gods. He also got excellent grades. So his school, which he loves, is a lock for at least another year, which is a tremendous and wonderful relief.

4. Because making very little money not only means the financial aid committee at my son’s school pities me, it also means I owe almost no taxes! It’s a lose-win situation.

5. Because the Babble blog got a freakishly sudden spike in hits, which is (taxable) money in the bank.  Someone must have linked to my latest post, but who?  It’s an internet mystery. (I asked the Babble people to tell me where the hits were coming from, and they said they were having “problems with their diagnostics” and would get back to me. I’m still waiting. Korinthia, are you reading? Those problematic diagnostics will eventually determine how much we get paid this month..perhaps we should harass them jointly?)

6. Because the children have, as predicted, reverted to their usual selves, and are actually decent company. Because they still hug and kiss me, even the big one, and ask me to read to them and sing to them at bedtime.

7. Because the cherry trees are blooming riotously, and the campus of our town’s college is as pretty as any place on earth. There are daffodils and tulips, bleeding-hearts and burgeoning lilacs, crocuses and tulip magnolias and a few brave azaleas everywhere you turn. Even the forsythia is still magnificent, because it has been so unseasonably cold. Last weekend I went for my first run in about a million years, and I sleep with the window open every night. All the branches on all the trees gleam with unfurled buds. It has been long in coming, but spring is finally here. And really–how can anyone feel lonely or sad when it’s springtime?

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. lucy permalink
    April 19, 2011 4:13 am

    It makes me happy that you’re – dare I say it – HAPPY:-) It also makes me realize that spring has finally arrived in our backyard, too, and that really I have absolutely no reason to feel lonely or sad. So thank you and enjoy!!!

  2. txmama permalink
    April 19, 2011 9:43 am

    I am very, very happy to read this entry. 🙂

  3. April 19, 2011 9:56 am

    Reason I have no reason to feel glum: a new (joyful) post by IrBr.

  4. April 19, 2011 10:07 am

    Ah! So glad you have turned a corner.

    Gardening, the middle-age discovery. I would never have imagined I could actually enjoy it, but there you have it.

    Yes, definitely call your new yoga friend Jesus, that will cover all angles.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      April 19, 2011 10:18 am

      I’ll forget and call him Job, I just know it. I passed him in the grocery store the other day and was just about to ask him if he worked there and whether he knew where the breadcrumbs were, when he greeted me happily by name. Consoling windows friend could not stop laughing.

  5. April 19, 2011 1:19 pm

    what a great inspiring post!! you must bring a smile into everyone’s lives that you touch! now i’m looking forward to the next post!
    spring is quickly changing into summer for us. 🙂

  6. CWF permalink
    April 19, 2011 2:48 pm

    We’ve slogged through a long cold-ass winter and now it’s spring. Warm nights spent on your screened in porch drinking cold beers and talking smack about Ugly Windows Neighbor. I hope you never move.

  7. Tracy permalink
    April 19, 2011 11:42 pm

    I’m always impressed with your writing, IB, whether you’re bringing a smile into everyone’s life that you touch (per Em) or not. Please don’t stop writing.

  8. April 20, 2011 9:47 am

    Am I so much more of a pessimist than I realized?? Am I really the only one who read this as having a subtext of “I have all these reasons not to feel lonely and sad… But I still do”? Like listing out all the reasons in order to talk yourself out of the funk. Seems I am the only one who interpreted it that way, what does that say about me?

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      April 20, 2011 10:28 am

      Nah, you got it right. I still do, against all odds, but I fight it. Why, look at all the reasons I have not to feel this way! What does that say about ME? (That said, I’m delighted I can pull optimism off. Right action produces right thought, as Aristotle and Epictetus and other wise folks have said. If only it would warm up, I think I’d be good to go.)

      • April 20, 2011 11:39 pm

        I’m glad I wasn’t just imagining the subtext, but I’m sorry to be right. Personally, I’ve discovered that talking myself out of a funk only makes it worse. It just becomes that much more depressing to realize I’ve got no logical reason to feel so bad! I hope your state of mind matches all the good things in your life soon.

    • leslie permalink
      April 21, 2011 7:59 am

      I also read it the exact same way, and the more happy posts, the sadder I felt. Despite all the joy, it did seem that the underlying subtext was, “and I still feel sad.”

  9. Celeste permalink
    April 20, 2011 9:49 pm

    Maybe you feel saudade.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudade

  10. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    April 20, 2011 10:16 pm

    Oh my god, that’s it. In so many languages, too. Especially Finnish, I think (farther down…) Wow, and thank you, thank you.

    Why does naming something always help? We’re slaves to taxonomic compartmentalization.

  11. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    April 20, 2011 10:17 pm

    Here it is: (all hail Lord Wikipedia)

    The Finnish language has a word whose meaning corresponds very closely with saudade: kaiho. Kaiho means a state of involuntary solitude in which the subject feels incompleteness and yearns for something unattainable or extremely difficult and tedious to attain.

    That’s totally it. I yearn for something extremely difficult and tedious to attain. No wonder I feel saudade!

  12. April 21, 2011 10:49 pm

    For awhile last year I worked on a gratitude journal. This post has inspired me to drag it out again. What’s funny is that I stopped doing it once the girls moved in and that was probably the time when I needed it the most.

    I’m glad you trying to open yourself to some positive energy. I sensed a “but” in this post. I think you’re taking a huge first step by acknowledging the good in your life. The cynical part of me always wonders about people who are always so uber happy and never admit anything bad in their lives. I’m just not all that “Pollyanna” and lately I honestly don’t expect good things to happen.

    I also sometimes have the feeling of being all alone even though I part of a huge family and have lots of great friends. I’m a firm believer that one can feel alone in a room full of people.

    Hang in there.

  13. Tripta permalink
    April 26, 2011 5:27 am

    I read the “but…” too, inside in my head. i actually scrolled back up to see if I’ve missed out reading a paragraph or something, somewhere. (and I don’t even want to know what that says about me!)
    And what is this “thing” that you want to attain? Is it a real, defined goal?

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      April 26, 2011 2:57 pm

      Not really, per se. I would say it’s something vague like “learning how to live in the present” if it didn’t make me cringe inwardly to sound so much like The Power of Now guy (whom I secretly love, and furtively read and reread). I want not to be some keening divorced person, but rather just an ordinary grown up going about my ordinary way. I want to get over myself, I suppose, and just get on with life….I want to be happy with my 100 miles distant boyfriend, happy with my children, stop looking forward and backward obsessively. It sounds both laughably simple and frighteningly difficult.

  14. Tripta permalink
    April 29, 2011 9:37 am

    “Laughably simple and frighteningly difficult”
    Yeah, that seems to describe it well. Well, knowing, even if in a vague way, what you want out of life, is a start, right? 🙂
    Good luck! You’d get there. Sooner rather than later, I hope!

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