13 August 2009

The Way of the Eye

As I was driving home from the office this afternoon, I started to cry.  It wasn't particularly dramatic - I didn't burst into tears - but it was both plentiful and consistent.  I could see to drive, but I would say the tears were pouring out of my eyes, and at one point I did start to sob.  Now, crying in the car is a bit of an awkward situation.  My policy about crying these days is that I'll do it openly; if I start to cry in public, I won't stop myself, because I think that crying must be for a reason, and also because it's very hard for me to reveal my vulnerable emotions to people, so if I do so by accident I don't want to stop it. But crying in the car... I always wonder, can other people see you?  If they can, then crying in the car is not really like crying in public:  it's really more of a voyeuristic situation.  In this case, I just decided to believe they couldn't see me, so I continued my drive home dripping tears and giving the occasional sob.

The thing about this crying was that it arrived totally out of the blue.  I wasn't feeling particularly sad, or particularly anything.  Still, I suppose, I am about to leave WhereIlive, and I had just come from a meeting with my Head of Department that had made me realise simultaneously how very much I want to leave here and how likely it is that I won't be able to, and I am still trying to pack stuff up and organise before I go, and I haven't been really happy since I came back from visiting Otherhome.  So probably I was feeling particularly something, but I just didn't know it.

A couple of months before I left Otherhome, a friend of mine there who reads the blog asked me why I was so sad on here all the time.  At the time, I told him that was a good question, and I still think it is.  So tonight, given the crying, I had a bit of a think about why I'm so sad, and I think I came up with the answer:  at a very elemental level, I'm alone, and I have been alone for a long time.

I have a good career that I'm good at and I love, but it's a career that doesn't bring me into contact with people I can confide in, or  just chatter to, on a regular basis.  Even if I were a scientist, simply another form of what I am, my job would bring me into more regular contact with people, because I'd go into a lab every day.  A few years ago I moved to somewhere where I knew nobody, and since then I've made one close friend here.  At Otherhome I have friends, a few of them close, but first of all all these (including the one here) are new friendships, and second of all - and much more important - friends have their own lives, and families, and they go home.  As awful as it sounds, you don't build a life with friends, although you have friends in your life.  

What this means is, that I simply have no one to be with, and I have no one to simply be with.  I always thought of myself as pretty much a loner, but it turns out I'm much more socially oriented than I thought.  I don't mean I like social groups - as it happens, I intensely dislike large groups, and one of the worst things about my visit to Otherhome was that it wound up being dinner with a large group of people, when I would have much preferred three or four.  What I mean is, I need to have someone to tell myself to, and it turns out I need someone to support me, or to share my burdens in some way.  In the meeting today I told my Head of Department that part of why I want to leave here is that the only person I have to discuss my leaving here with is...myself.  No one says, "I don't want to pack up all those boxes again!"  or, "Okay, I'll drive the truck when we go," or, "So the South didn't work out for you.  That's good to know."  I have no one to give me courage, or push me to make the decision.  I give myself courage, and that means I have to be both supplier and expender.  And that's hard.  

That, I suppose, is why Mr. Fallen mattered so much, and matters so much.  I have no one else.  I love my job; I love what I read, and I find it endlessly interesting, and I want a companion who'll find it interesting, too.  But there's no such person.  I love my hobby, and I could do it all night long, but there's no one to dance with in the kitchen, or to waltz with for a few tiny steps on the streets of Oxford (or wherever - I'm planning a research visit to Oxford, so it's much on my mind).  And I have these thoughts, you know?:  Do serial killers care about their victims' emotions?  How much is a fair price for a prostitute?  Are we really horrible, or really good? Will I end disorganized and often thoughtless, like my mom?  Am I nice?  Was William Blake crazy?  Did Byron mean that joke?  Did Hopkins mean that one?  What makes literature so great?  What happens after we die?  If your brain swelled enough, would it bulge out of your nose? Am I doing what's right?  How do we know what's right?  Have I been fair to my sister?  How do they get the newsprint off fish-and-chip paper?  They're not important, or really relevant, but they're my thoughts, and my questions, and I have to deal with them all alone.

Long long ago, now, when Boyfriend J. and I broke up, I decided  that I just couldn't do it anymore:  I couldn't make that kind of investment and have it end painfully.  So I told my friend J that I was just going to have a series of Celebrity Fantasy Boyfriends - celebrities that I would pretend were my boyfriend (serially).  Not in a stalker-y fantasist way:  I would pretend that they lived in Boston, where I happened to live then, and I would insert them into my life.  And I did.  Oh, now it occurs to me that I've told this story before.  But I have to continue.  Anyway, the Celebrity Fantasy Boyfriends were really successful.  If I went shopping and wanted someone to help me make decisions, I would pretend that whichever CFB I was on was with me, and we'd discuss things in my head; I'd supply both sides of the conversation.  If I was having trouble with my thesis, I'd chat with the CFB about it - some of them turned out to have remarkably good ideas.  And it was funny, and sort of cute, if rather eccentric.  But I was always still alone.  And if I did it now, it wouldn't be cute or funny:  it would be pathetic.  And since I've been alone a lot longer, it would also be vastly painful.  The reminder of my alone-ness that it would provoke would be commensurately higher.

The fact is, friends and work and hobbies and interests cannot take the place of a partner.  And because I, in fact, have very few friends, and am a grown-up with a grown-up's life, and with a job that's particularly isolated, I am really, basically, almost always alone.

If I don't stop this, I'll cry again, and since that would be prompted crying it would be self-indulgent.  Instead I'll say that one of the things I thought while I was crying was that I really hoped it wouldn't last that long, because I had an eye doctor's appointment later.  As it happened, it didn't last that long.  As it also happened, I did feel myself starting to cry again on the way to the eye doctor, but I stopped myself - I was worried that having cry-y eyes would somehow mess up my field of vision test.  I have a family history of glaucoma, and since I have inherited the family terrible vision, I'm always worried that I've inherited that, too.  In fact, however, it appears I have, at least for the moment, not!  Hurrah!  My field of vision is fine, and although I have a quirk in my right eye it is not even pre-glaucomic.  So although I seem to have inherited every other negative distaff trait going, for another year I have slipped out of the noose on that one.  And so, we might say, today has been both a bad eye day and a good eye day.

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