I had to spend some time working on my dissertation proposal. I'm still not done, but I was tired of waiting to finish before coming back to The Shiftless Wanderer. I needed to come back here. Needed to write. To meander in words and musings. And since I've lollygagged around not writing my proposal, I figured I might as well lollygag around here not writing my proposal. At least something will get written!
In the last 5 months and 15 days my son The Officer, a single dad, left on deployment aboard the U.S.S. Momsen, leaving behind his 5 year old son. The Scholar had his heart broken. That's enough life for several lifetimes. We brought home a new kitten, Miss London Featherbag, who quickly acclimated to her new digs. Old Lady Bailey, the queen of the roost, did not acclimate to the changes nearly so fast. There's 18 lives between the two of them. We've risen out of bed 167 days. Brushed our teeth before bed 166 times. Watched dozens of movies in which we got to live other people's lives for a few hours.
And things have fallen apart on a regular basis. Somehow they get put back together in a somewhat miraculous fashion. I think this is so they can have the opportunity to fall apart again. I came across the phrase "marvelous misfortune" in Ginette Paris's wonderful book on the neurogenesis of heartbreak. I highly recommend it - both the book and the perspective that when things fall apart one is experiencing a marvelous misfortune. It helps.
One of the most potent marvelous misfortunes I have had in the last 5 months and 15 days actually happened just yesterday. A lifetime ago. One of the most potent in my life, really. It happened because of a 30 second anecdote The Scholar told me. About something I said to him 8 years ago. Something awful I said in a fit of anger. It hurt him terribly. The falling apart that followed was a shattering of the image I've held of myself for . . . well, maybe most of my life. I don't remember saying this awful thing. But he does. And he'll remember it for the rest of his life. What I'll remember for the rest of my life is how my son unwittingly held up a mirror for me that I have refused to look into all this time. It was about time. This was one of those moments when the world suddenly shifts on its axis.
The thing I saw clearly for the first time - no, not saw clearly, but felt in every deep fiber of my being was that I was a humble, flawed human being. Simply that and nothing more. I was no better than all of the people that I have always, secretly, thought I was better than. The marvelous misfortune is that for the first time in my life I know, in the truest sense of that word, that I am a part of the human race. It continues to be perhaps the most painful enlightenment I've ever had.
Thirty seconds. A story my son's been carrying like a knife in his belly for 8 years. And now, at age 50, I have to begin living a different life. I haven't figured out that part yet. I feel like I've just died. Or just been born. Who knows. Aren't they one and the same thing?