Hopeless tag time
And no one's for me
You're like new year
Stay and fight
You'll just get used to it, the doctor says. Your brain will adapt.
He doesn't say what it is if it doesn't. What if I am doomed to become one of those people with a small suffering? You read about them, people who have tinnitus for twenty years, people with an unscratchable itch, people whose life is blighted in a way that is almost unnoticeable, yet comes to define them.
People who are marooned a million miles from home, with no way to ever return.
Before I went to England, my life was almost hopeless. Now it is hopeless. I knew it would be a mistake to have gone; I didn't know how big.
I saw myself in the mirror this morning. I am old. I look friendly, but I am worn. Why would anyone want someone who is so run down?
Something has been bothering me. I've spent a lot of time trolling people on the interwebnet. Some have become quite angry, and I'm sure that given the chance, they'd indulge in a fistfight (which they'd lose, I have to say: I'm a big guy and I tolerate pain a lot better than most).
But to wish someone dead? How can a person be that hurt by words on a screen?
Well, I understand anger out of proportion to the hurt done. Mrs Zen is ruled by anger. Me, I'm not angry at all. I'm mostly unmoved. It's not admirable--it's entirely a product of self-absorption and the belief that what ails me is entirely my fault.
But I pity deeply a person who loves me so much they want me dead because I don't love them back. And if he doesn't love me, why does he so much want to change me? When you hate someone, you want them to stay the same, and besides that, to remain two-dimensional. Once you start to understand a person, you can no longer feel hate for them.
M said a nice thing when we were at the British meetup last weekend. Or I take it that way, at least.
He said he would live in the UK if I had a commune that he could be part of. Of course that sounded weird. But two weeks ago, it wouldn't have, because back home, I quickly felt my old self. I felt I was again someone you might want to know.
I will not have a commune in the UK. I would have no problem going home, but I have no work there, and the recession makes it impossible to gamble, so I am nailed to Australia.
You'll just get used to it, the doctor says.
Or die. Whatever.
used to have to must
Okay, I'm going to do a couple of English grammary things that have come up, for those (she? are there more than one?) who like that kind of thing.
First up, which is the correct negative for "used to": "didn't used to" or "didn't use to"? People get very confused but the answer is simple, and reasonably easy to remember.
"Use to" is exactly like "want to" or "like to", except that we do not use it in the present tense any more. (You can find it in Shakespeare, I believe.)
We say, "I liked to go to the football" and "I didn't like to go the football", and we say, "I used to go to the football" and "I didn't use to go to the football". Easy.
Second, this came up in a course I'm editing: what difference in meaning is there between "have to" and "must"? The poor soul who wrote the course got in a muddle trying to capture it, because the difference is thin and not very important, although it does exist.
It's fairly simple. "Have to" has a flavour
-- and no more than a flavour, really -- of compulsion from the outside (or often an abstract compulsion), while "must" can have
a flavour of choice, of self-imposed compulsion (or even a more concrete compulsion).
What I mean is that "I have to go" is what you tend to say when you need to catch a train; "I must go" is what you tend to say when you really want to go or you have set a time to go. Don't get me wrong; they are quite interchangeable, and you would not be wrong to say either in either situation, but the hint of a difference is there.
You'd notice though that if you had a hundred instances where you could choose, you might perhaps in 80 choose "have to" in sentences like "you have to/must watch Quantum of Solace, it's really good". Here, the compulsion is abstract: no one is forcing you to watch it, but you must
watch it (if you like films, if you want to be able to join in at the watercooler, if you don't want me to mock you, and so on). Conversely, you might more often choose "must" in sentences like "you must park between the lines".
Note that you can only use "must" in the negative. I don't know why that is, but it's tempting to feel that negatives are not as abstract as positives. I'll have to think some about that, because it feels true but I don't know why.
yeah whatever though
I do not in fact make excuses for myself. I know I am not perfect. I do believe that the good things about me (far) outweigh the bad, but there are bad things, and I know they can be hard to love.
The way I am -- and maybe you are the same way, I don't know -- is that it is as though I were two people (maybe even a crowd, but conceptually, seeing it as two facets works). One is a calm and rational person, who may not always make the right decisions (of course not, the rational me chose to move back to Brisbane, and that was a terrible mistake, which I have paid dearly for and will continue to pay for, possibly, during the rest of my life, one way or another -- although, let me say, it does not have to be that way, I do believe it does not), but makes decisions for the right reasons. That person does the right thing
. I mean, it is the definition of that person that he does. I should note though that doing the right thing does not necessarily make you right in what you do (or actually interesting or appealing) because a bit of wrongness is part of the spice of us, part of what makes us right in a broader sense. My sister, J, is someone who tries only to indulge her rational self, and does so rigidly, but her rectitude is an anvil that she breaks relationships, people, her life on.
The rational me, of course, was, and is, capable of anything in this life. But I stress that I do not believe that on its own, and I use J as a caution, it leads to a good life.
The rational me cohabits -- sometimes is at war with -- what I think of as my monkey me. It is a child to the rational adult. It is fearful of shadows, quick to anger, has an unmerited low opinion of me, is envious, hateful of others, sees the worst where there is barely even bad. It cannot be expelled. I know that some, perhaps all, who read this would think, well, just eradicate the monkey and accept some loss of yourself, and hope that all will be well. But I cannot. I do not even know how to reach the monkey, let alone cast it out. It is not something I speak to, nor really, does it speak to me. It howls. It pleads. It cries out to me. It forces my hand. It does not negotiate.
(Yes, I know that I am painting myself as someone with a severe mental disorder. I am talking metaphorically though. I do not actually have a monkey that howls at me in my head. It is just that I am a person who, as I suspect we all do, has many "sides" to him, which are not always consonant.)
When Mrs Zen was pregnant with the twins, she turned inward. I think she is not someone who feels a great deal of empathy for others. She is nice
but I have long suspected that she does that to protect herself, not because she wants others to feel good about themselves. I know that sounds harsh, but I struggle to express something that I feel I have down exactly. I feel I understand why she is how she is, without necessarily being able to explain why. So that's a feeble expression of it, but I have felt that she is nice to people because it's a way of not having to relate to them in other ways.
But she wasn't nice to me -- or to anyone really. Far from it. She didn't care about me at all. Now I'm not a sap; I don't need to be mothered. But it was not just a case of lacking affection. She didn't care about my wellbeing. Here is a complaint about her that I have from the first year we had twins. It is hard to raise twins that first year. Very hard. Mrs Zen suffered from never sleeping. But I was there to make sure life continued. I did that on my own. I receive no credit for that from Mrs Zen, who feels it was her due, I suppose, nor from her family, who hate me for not bearing them as well as I could. But I did it on my own. But why should I have? Mrs Zen has a family. She has two sisters. But they did, literally, nothing for us. Nothing. They did not, as you might hope and the books suggest families will, come round and vacuum. They did not cook her food. They did not do my shopping sometimes. They did not, not even once, not once
, give me a break by babysitting Zenella. They did nothing, and the reason is not that they are not generous people, but because Mrs Zen did not ask. She did not care enough about me to try to ease my burden because she was so concerned with her own.
(I want to make clear though that the rational me can easily forgive that, because Mrs Zen is after all composed the way she is, and cannot become someone else overnight, and the shock of having twins -- after giving up work that you have done for years and a country that you have called home -- was enormous. I know that it was tough for her, and not being big enough to bear it is not something I am angry about, because neither was I -- far from it, I am only angry that I should be expected to be so much bigger
than she was capable of.)
I will say this more about those times. Mrs Zen's mother came to our house to "help" me. Maybe she felt she was lending me moral support. I don't know. But she was no help at all, not least because she never actually bothered asking what I needed and consequently had no idea what would help. Far from helping, she added to my burden. I had to think about her as well as Zenella, Mrs Zen and the twins. I had begun a new job and was petrified of losing it. I was not performing well and felt enormously stressed, and because I had no money, I had to work long hours to make up for what I had spent in moving and making a home in Brisbane. (When Mrs Zen exercises her litany of how bad a person I am, she does so in the comfort of a home I furnished, that I worked to create, to fill with things, because I worked hard to make her life as good as I could, that being a way I cared for her, and went unappreciated, taken for granted.) Mrs Zen's mother did some shitty things even: she would cook dinner for Zenella but would not make me any; she went to the hospital to visit Mrs Zen but did not take tea for Zenella or provide it for her, so that I had to; she went to bed and left Zenella roaming the house, without telling me that she was retiring. Whatever harms I have done Mrs Zen, or whatever harms her family perceives I have done her or them, I was also harmed. Anyway, it's to laugh at now, or would be if my inlaws had been furnished with anything approaching a sense of humour, but among the things Mrs Zen's mother did not do was the shopping. She would get things she needed, but never anything I needed. But she would use my stuff, of course. No problem there. But she would use all of it and not bother getting more. She would drink all my milk and not get more milk, so that I had to drive to the shops just so that I could have coffee.
This would all be fine, if I was actually a saint. But although I do think I am a good person, I am not yet ready for my place in the celestial choir, and I finally snapped. Mrs Zen's mother ate my onion.
Remember, I said this is to laugh at. And the joke is on me. I am the fool in it. I don't pretend otherwise.
I went to make tea, I don't know, something Italian, and looked for my onion that I had bought for the purpose. I am not proud to say it, but I whined. I whined that she had taken my fucking onion. It was the last straw for me. She had done nothing for me, had caused me more anxiety than she had relieved, and now she had robbed me of my onion.
Mrs Zen's mother, and I daresay this is understandable, did not believe that I had a right to be upset. She upbraided me at length about my ingratitude. What a shit I was, when Mrs Zen's father had permitted me this house (which she did not mind that I did not actually want to live in, but had had to on sufferance), which he had worked so hard to acquire. Etc etc. You know, maybe in a calmer time I would simply have shrugged and said, well yes, he did provide the house and that was very decent of him, and I would have put to one side that actually I had not come to Australia to live in their fucking house but to have their support -- you see, I was not worried about providing shelter for my family: I had a good job and could easily pay more rent if I had to, but was concerned that Mrs Zen would be in London, a long way from support -- but I was not living in a calm time. The monkey had spotted his opening, and bang, he spoke before anything could calm him.Fuck off!
Because, really, monkey or no, wtf? How could they think that the house was the issue? How could she think that giving us the house was the big deal here? I mean, of course, slow down and you can realise that for her, that was the big deal. But for me, a person whose opinion she had not canvassed and did not value, it was totally beside the fucking point.
Well anyway, I do not feel I was entirely sane in that year or the one that followed. Or, let's face it, the one after that. Now I have close to recovered (no, really), and am left only with the difficulty of the mess of having been a bit unhinged.
But here's the thing. The monkey me needs to be loved. I was entirely alone. I had no friends in Brisbane. My friends had moved away or become remote. I was working from home so could make no new ones. Everyone who I had contact with despised me (Mrs Zen's family) or didn't care much about me (Mrs Zen). The place seemed hostile and unpleasant.
And I know, I am not stupid enough to think otherwise, it was me who didn't agree with the place, not the place with me. It is me who is hostile, not the place so much. Even though Brisbane is not a friendly place, not a good place for someone like me, all in all, that still does not mean that I could not make a life there. It was me. Anyway, you'd need to be rational to figure that out, and I was nothing like rational. The monkey was driving the car, and I'll tell you, he does not reach out, he needs people to reach in.
And I do. I'm shy, in a way that I don't think is easy for people who are confident in themselves to understand. The monkey constantly tells me I'm shit, I have nothing to offer, I am boring, dim, unattractive. And you know, I don't have much to offer. I'm not interested in much; I don't think about much. I am boring. I don't like talking about whatever you like talking about, probably. I don't know. How do people be interesting? I know what I find interesting. I am obviously not dim, but there are many things I don't get
. And here's a curious thing. When I look at pictures of myself when I was 16, I see a very pretty boy. I'm not just saying that to romanticise myself. You would say the same. I was handsome without question. But no girls liked me. Or were willing to let me know they liked me. Or were willing to let me know in a way that worked for me. How we fuck ourselves up!
Well, who knows whether the monkey is right -- the problem is that he's most of the reason, if those things are true, that they're true, but he won't reform, and cannot reform himself.
And I can't. I am not going to become some linear, easy person ever
Anyway, I found people who were like me in some ways, who courted
me, who fed that thing in me that needs to be liked. People liked me, were touched by me, and they touched me too. I will not go into what they did, or said, that I responded to, and I will not name names because this is not a confession (not least because I feel confessions are only for the guilty and I do not feel guilty that I found friends
, whatever that friendship consisted of). The more astute among my readers will have realised -- well maybe none is that astute -- that I started demanding something from the internet in 2000, when Mrs Zen was first pregnant, because that was when I first lost something in my life that I needed to replace.
I want to say though that Dr Zen is not the monkey. It is not something separate from me. It is me entirely. I am just as vicious and boorish as I am sensitive. I don't pretend otherwise.
Some people were women, of course. Here's something about me. I do not make a good first impression on women. I don't know why. I think I'm personable. I'm nice enough. But I don't seem to impress people. But when they get to know me, women like me. I don't know. Perhaps they see what is good about me, and I believe there is lots good about me. Perhaps shyness makes me bad to know at first meeting, and acquaintance allows me to overcome it. Whatever it is, very few women who know me for any length of time don't like me. Many really
So I had relationships, one in particular (which is not a secret to anyone who reads my blog) that touched me, inspired me, got me through it
-- and another that is a friendship that runs very deep and is not something I would ever
take lightly. And I think this was something mutual. These were people who needed me too. Perhaps they too have monkeys who my monkey communed with.
And Mrs Zen found out. I'm not going to recriminate over how bad it is to read my emails when I trusted her not to. If you are abusing trust, you cannot get into the business of whining about trust abused. I was more upset that she had abused the privacy of others, by reading their emails, which she had no right to do, than that she had abused mine. Because a person that did her wrong by courting me cannot be held to be much of a sinner when they do not know her at all, and does not deserve to have her personal and private life laid bare to a gawker.
I would not, I have to say, be so upset had Mrs Zen delved into my private realm with the desire to know me, to learn what I feel, to find ways to make me happy. But she did not. She sought only to find out whether there was a cause for grievance, whether she could find reason to be angry with the husband she had abandoned, left friendless in a hostile place (and Mrs Zen was, as the cliche has it, my best friend -- not always a comfortable friendship, true, but a good one all the same).
Anyway, Mrs Zen retrieved herself from the fog of early childhood, and asked that I should simply cast aside my friends and resume our marriage.
Well, of course, that 'simply' is not simple. I do not know how to analyse what I had, but it was something valuable, parallel to my 'real' life but no less real. (And that, I know, is what upset Mrs Zen, that the unreal was so close to the real, but I don't distinguish them. I accept that what I did was the same as simply fucking some other woman. I don't see it any differently, and I won't pretend that it was less meaningful, lest I diminish something that had meaning for me.)
But a web, once weaved, is complicated to unravel. I did not actually want just to ditch people who cared for me in favour of someone who for a long time had shown no sign of caring for me at all. The monkey says think about yourself, son.
And you know, when you have kids, you don't get the chance to think about yourself much.
Well, I could have lied. I could have said okay, I'll do that, willingly, and just hid my tracks better. But my sense of honour is not offended so much by cheating so much as it is by not being an honest cheat! So I said no, actually, I won't abandon my friends.
It seemed noble not to lie. But stupid, obviously. I would not have had half the trouble I now have had I simply said yes, and hid more strenuously.
Of course I know how. I could have hidden from the start (but a/ I trusted Mrs Zen not to look and b/ I did not feel I had anything to be guilty about -- do you realise how hard it is to hide when you do not feel you are doing wrong?). I did not. The monkey took risks that the rational me would have had the sense not to.
But I'm not comfortable, actually, with deceit. I wished I could have been more honest. But I did whatever I could to make my life work.
I do not, at all, feel guilty. And I will never. I know that Mrs Zen will forgive me for everything I have done except for that. If I showed remorse, she would feel vindicated, and vindication is everything for her. But I have no remorse at all.
None at all. You hear me? Not the monkey, not the rational me, not any part of me. I won't name the names, but I don't regret the time I've spent with them. I have abused trust but I've also been worthy of it.
You hear me? If you want to love me, you love a flawed man who has a million strands, and of them, many are good, but some are just... monkey. And that is not changing.
I will not apologise for myself forever. I am that rational person. I am that monkey. I am not changing. I think I have an immense
reservoir of, well, something. I hesitate to call it good. It is more like, things you need. I wish, I dearly wish, I could make Mrs Zen see that she has a deep well to draw on, and that, even though I am, as she has noted, a cheating lying scumbag (and I'm not kidding you, or myself, that I am not), I am also something beautiful, decent and desirable.
LOL. You know. This is so long, I drank an entire bottle of wine while writing it, and I was already half cut, so it did not go where I was intending (actually, I completely forgot where I was going at least half an hour ago), but here's the thing: that's who I am. I stride out, sure of where I'm going, and half an hour later, I am so fucking lost I don't even know my own name, let alone the way home.