I ran the 5k on the new highway. It was neat, really neat. The course was a little tougher than I expected, what with the hills. I thought I would be out on the new highway, laughing, snapping pictures, but I pretty much just looked ahead and ran, and everybody else did, too. I didn’t run fast, but I worked those hills and didn’t give up. The highway was wide and white and still. It was so eerily quiet. The pre- and post-race, on the other hand, were full of laughter. All sorts of local folks showed up. It was nice to run into friends, neighbors, and colleagues, and it was heartening to see that so many people keep up with their running. It felt convivial and congenial, and I felt like I was a part of this community. So that’s good.
I went to a dinner party that was a little challenging for me. I had to mingle with some people who let me down. I’m no longer longing for things people won’t give me. Still, it helps to have a glass of wine in my hand at such events. It helps to remind myself that these people are not my friends, they don’t really care about me and the welfare of my children. These are acquaintances, who want to share some laughs, brag about their kids, see their charmed lives reflected. I can reflect that back to them, and enjoy the gift of laughter, be regaled by stories, enjoy the good food they so generously share. Not everyone has to be loyal and true, and I need to get out to events like this to remain part of the social fabric. And it’s an honor to be invited. So that’s good enough.
Pseudonymous Friend, who has forever distinguished herself with her compassion and kindnesses, suggests that life is harder for most people on the globe than it is for me. Good point. I understand the privilege that I have. I’m not trying to say that my life is the hardest in the world. I do have hardships, though, that exceed the inconveniences of these intact families around here. I can deal with these hardships, by starting the day at 5am, driving, driving, driving, remaining hyperorganized, and letting go when needed. The problem is that my daily challenges just distance me from other local people. I don’t fit into this crowd that groans over their shared inconveniences, such as having to drop off kids at two different school starting times. Oh, cry me a river, I don’t say, as I stifle my words with a sip of that wine I keep handy for moments like this. I spend the conversation suspended, smiling weakly, taking a sip of wine, in my own little world. And I wonder why I have trouble integrating back into this community! Still, I try. I say something good-natured. Someone else says something funny. I laugh in turn. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.
This gets to the more intractable problem. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It doesn’t take. The superficial socializing, watching the sun rise or the moon rise while I’m on a jog or a paddle–I got nothin’. A friend thanked me for telling her about the horse and carriage ride. She went on a clear, starry night. She said it was one of the most amazing things she’d ever done, “maybe ever.” Wow. I knew it was nice, but hey, wow! I’ve seen this joy on friend’s faces, after the 5k on the lonely highway, after an evening of paddling. They are open to the beauty and they are utterly moved. I’ve introduced them to these things, and I just think *shrug* it’s all very nice. This is the bigger problem. I can be in the thick of the simple pleasure or catch a glimpse of the sublime, and it just doesn’t penetrate.
I know I’m making progress in my energy levels, my socializing, and my acceptance. I even had lunch with a colleague who had to bring his baby. I actually had an instinct to bolt when I saw him walk in the restaurant with the baby, but I held fast and tried to act normal. I spent an hour staring at a 19 month-old, and I didn’t cry, and I even tried to be friendly to the baby, like she was just the little person she is, deserving of my respect. Such progress! I feel like something snapped when I found my husband. I fear that I lost some kind of life spark. It’s hard to describe the loss, because I feel it viscerally, but it always manifests differently. A few months ago, it felt like dark bile coursing within me. Nowadays I feel it like a cord that has been cut. I can’t retrieve the optimistic, open-minded, ambitious person I used to be (who liked babies), a person who appreciated things. But if it’s a cord, then I can reweave it. Hence all this tying myself into the social fabric, accepting from others as much as they’re willing to give, offering as much as I’m capable, accepting others how they are and hoping they do the same for me.
All the material resources won’t make you happy if you can’t let happiness in. External advantages are helpful, but they are not a substitute for internal health. I know this is true because I watched my husband suffering, for years, when he had so much going for him. But I’m not my husband. I am a survivor. I know this because all of these nice things are not lifting me, but I do them anyway. They are holding me up, and I need that. I am fighting like hell.