the shallowness of sanity
Many people assume that we must be, since sometimes one and sometimes the other would get a better review, the bigger advance, in some way “competitive,” that our private life must be a minefield of professional envies and resentments. This was so far from the case that the general insistence on it came to suggest a certain lacunae in the popular understanding of marriage.
Yet I was myself in no way prepared to accept this news as final: there was a level on which I believed that what had happened remained reversible.
I could not give away the rest of his shoes.
I stood there for a moment, then realized why: he would need shoes if he was to return.
The recognition of this thought by no means eradicated the thought.
I have still not tried to determine (say, by giving away the shoes) if the thought has lost its power.
I realized that my impression of myself had been of someone who could look for, and find, the upside in any situation.
I kept saying to myself that I had been lucky all my life. The point, as I saw it, was that this gave me no right to think of myself as unlucky now.
This was what passed for staying on top of the self-pity question.
I even believed it.
We were not having any fun, he had recently begun pointing out. I would take exception (didn’t we do this, didn’t we do that) but I had also known what he meant. He meant doing things not because we were expected to do them or had always done them or should do them but because we wanted to do them. He meant wanting. He meant living.
In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing.” A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days.
Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.
I could not count the times during the average day when something would come up that I needed to tell him. This impulse did not end with his death. What ended was the possibility of response.
We imagined we knew everything the other thought, even when we did not necessarily want to know it, but in fact, I have come to see, we knew not the smallest fraction of what there was to know.
For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age. This year for the first time since I was 29 I saw myself through the eyes of others. This year for the first time since I was 29 I realized that my image of myself was of someone significantly younger.
Time is the school in which we learn.
I came across a thick file labeled “Planning.” The very fact that we made files labeled “Planning” suggests how little of it we did.