I am still on strike, but I am announcing that the weather is still lovely and that it is going to be a good day.
I keep forgetting that it is now safe to get up in the morning and just do things. Normally I only think this is safe in out of town, safer out of state, and safest out of country. The reason it was not safe for a long time was that in Reeducation, getting up in the morning meant recommencing the regimen of destructive self criticism which Reeducation had devised.
I am aware that the 12 Stoners always promise that “Just for today …” they will live right and treat themselves right. But I had already been doing this for eighteen years, albeit outside the auspices of the 12 Stones, when I entered Reeducation. This fact, together with my accomplishments from ages 16 to 34, was precisely what Reeducation alleged to be invalid. Life could not be genuine if it had not been lived under Reeducation’s auspices.
I should not have been able to get this far and would not have, had I been “honest with myself” or “aware of my feelings” (which I could not have been, Reeducation believed). It could not be I, but must be a “false self” who had gotten so far. This “false self” must be strong and frightening indeed, since it had gotten so far given what my actual psychic circumstances had to be.
This was why Reeducation and I had to engage in such a fierce battle against the life I had been leading and my accomplishments. We were supposed to slug away until that “false self” broke open and revealed the Inner Child underneath, and until the “false self” admitted it was nothing more than an alibi for the completely powerless and irreparably damaged preschooler cradled inside like a damaged fetus not yet stillborn.
Although I have a good memory and I was the one present during all relevant events, I never did agree with all the details of Reeducation’s view on the condition of that child. That is why I remained “in denial,” and how I failed Reeducation. Still, Reeducation and I did a pretty good job of slugging away at me. I always liked to wake up and get up mornings before that.
I have since been apprehensive as the sun comes up, afraid the slugging will start again, or that I will not be able to stop it, or that I will feel compelled to help with it, or that I am so used to it that I will not notice it until in horror, I see a visible wound.
Things I learned as a child, which seemed impossible and were later revealed, in fact, to be untrue: Life was a terrible thing and one ought to commit suicide. If one lacked the courage to do this, one must find the right combination of drugs and pastimes to get oneself through the day, as actual improvement was an illusion. People who believed in the possibility of improvement were to be scorned for their coarse tastes.
What Reeducation thought: Life was an unhappy burden. But it could be managed, made easier and more pleasant, and thus borne.
What people have always said when I have said I wanted to leave the East and leave academia: I am [insert insulting adjective here] to believe in the possibility of autonomy, liveliness, and joy. I must realize that life is suffering, for one thing, and that all suffering is self created, for another. [Note the contradiction in that last sentence, folks.]
What I did before age 16: Freeze myself for now, knowing I would get older and not have to listen to these speeches.
What I did in Reeducation: Freeze myself and wait for the storm to end, but feel anxious — getting older would not bring automatic liberation, I realized, so staying frozen was not a good option. The frozenness became increasingly worrying for this reason. It was fear that this death-in-life might become permanent that made me quit.
What I did in academia, after being strong-armed into staying in it: Freeze myself and wait for my sentence to end. Not a good strategy, by the way.
Why I got into my infamous abusive romance: I was so unhappy at work, and people at work were so abusive, and I could not afford to spend more time out of town. This appeared to be the best step up available.
How I reacted to my infamous abusive romance: I thought:
Well, it is too bad that this is how my life has ended, and I am embarrassed to have wasted so many talents and so much health, but it is what has happened and what I have done. I really did my best given the information and tools I had, so I will not criticize myself too much. I will simply accept that this is how my life has ended.
If there is reincarnation, I may have better luck next time. I wish I could believe in reincarnation, because I would so like to come back as the exact same person, even, and just not mistreat her so much. But now, having struck what appears to be a near fatal blow, I will just sit and endure to the end. Other talented people have had worse lives and not even gotten the chance to discover their talents. I am grateful to have had so much more of a life than so many people get to have.
I do apologize to the universe for having killed that girl who had so much potential and so much to give. Wasting her life and the opportunities she had was not what I meant to do, and I did not do it on purpose. But I have done it, because I was told so many times that people like her deserved to die. It is still very hard for me to say that. It is in fact terribly painful to accept, and just saying it feels even more destructive than the actual murder did. But perhaps I am just being shown here that it is true after all what they say, life is better understood as a burden than as a gift. I have been delusional, perhaps, in my optimism. Perhaps I am being shown reality at last.
At this time I was 47 and had been struggling with Reeducation for 13 years.
What got me out of that abusive romance: A flood of desire. I saw so many people just jumping in life, as I had done before Reeducation, and I could no longer repress the envy. Reeducation had taught that life was not for people of my lineage. We were not good enough to go to the beach on weekends or the theatre in the evenings, or to develop our careers. We must stay home and make peace with our flawed natures. But one day I could not stand it. I failed to repress my desire to swim in life.
On swimming. I knew Reeducation was destructive the minute I realized I no longer believed I deserved to take Saturdays off to go to the beach. In my abusive romance, I went one step further down: going to the swimming pool stopped working like a renewing salve. I am flashing now on early May, 2005, just over a year into that relationship.
The Person was not speaking to me because I had disobeyed in some manner. It would have been a great opportunity to break up, actually — just accept that he was not speaking and make it a matter of policy not to read e-mail or take calls in the future. This did not occur to me, though, because he had so terrified me a year earlier about what he might do if I left the relationship. I had committed at that point to staying in it until his green card issue was resolved in summer of 2006. With it he could keep his house and job. Having those to hang onto he would not need me.
So instead of leaving the relationship, I just enjoyed my time off from it. It was a beautiful late spring, and I had really interesting classes. We had the last week of school with marvelous contemporary texts, and finals week with interesting creative projects. I had this pale pink skirt with a gauze ruffle that I had bought in Laguna Beach. It was still cool enough to sit outside on the porch, and to go to the pool in the middle of the day.
This is to say that I had a wholeness to me then that I still have not fully recovered, and that that wholeness was still just a shadow of the wholeness I had had before. And the destructiveness of that relationship was as it was because people at work were as destructive as they were at that time. And it is the destructiveness of the people at work that did the most damage. And people have always told me you cannot go back in time, but I consider that time is space, and I am just moving spaces.
Moving into the space of May 2005, before Katrina, is not a bad goal. March, 2004, before that Relationship started, is the next one. After that October, 1998, before the full reality of my present job set in. After that the beautiful summer and fall of 1997. Then the many illusions, plans, and writings of 1995-96. Then the law school revelation period of 1992-93. Then 1990-91, the strong but still fragile moment when I felt so settled and proud and full of hope.