Eleven thirty five at night.
It was a day of autumnal mildness and gentle breezes, the sky clear and a deep azure, while people in their cars came and went to visit friends in houses in my neighborhood. Also it was a time when I was visited by old memories of college, particularly 1989, the year I studied Joyce with an expert professor. What I remembered especially was the humor in Ulysses. And later, in the springtime, I had Chaucer with a hilarious teacher and we all laughed our brains out at the bawdy jokes in The Canterbury Tales. The following summer, I flew back to Michigan to see my brother and his pregnant wife, and he and I would watch the standup comics on HBO and likewise have hysterics. I was 23 and hadn’t been hit by real adversity yet; this would come in another year and a half. After that, it became harder to laugh at myself or at the absurdities of everyday life, thinking that a lot of humor is denial of what gives us pain. The boss of my job said, “If we weren’t laughing we’d be crying,” but I solved the problem by getting out of that situation.
I chose a life for myself that allowed me to go slower and easier, like the old song by CSN titled “You Don’t Have to Cry.” I went from a Type A personality to Type B, doing things at my own pace because there was no other way I could live. “You are living a reality / I left years ago / It quite nearly killed me… In the long run / It will make you cry / Make you crazy and old before your time.” The main thing I had to learn was how to manage the guilt and shame feelings, and basically tell my family to go to hell. The other thing was to teach myself a new language that liberated me from my family’s dynamics. Today they have no power over me whatsoever. What I did with my life was absolutely necessary to my sanity and relative happiness. And now I’m in the process of scraping the church off my shoe.
Everyone has options, more options than they acknowledge to themselves. It’s like when Michelle left her dead life in Eugene to take a job in Wyoming: a clean slate. She gave up the victim mentality and took control of the dice herself. The jaws of uncertainty lurked ahead of her, but she moved fearlessly forward.
I wonder what I’ll do after the church fiasco is blown over.