Travels with Myself
The Occasional Blogs of Doug Jordan, Author
I retrieved my bags and worked my way through the exit and surveyed the throngs of greeters on the other side of a barrier, looking for a familiar face in a sea of faces. Hopeless. Carmen and I had talked about our Hollywood moment, locking eyes in the crowd and rushing into each other’s arms, and ‘the kiss’. I lingered at the exit looking for her but it looked as though our Hollywood moment wasn’t going to happen.
The progression of a relationship in on-line dating predictably follows the same pattern, it’s only the pace that varies. In my state of mind, the pace I set for myself – or was it set for me by my subconscious mind? – was hectic. Carpe diem, time is of the essence, and running out fast.
It may seem odd to think of anger as a sign of returning to mental health, and it wasn’t obvious to me at the time either, but instead of the nihilism of anger that I had been experiencing I was seeing something different. The anger was no longer directed at blaming and revenge, it was more generalized. I’m sure I offended some of my friends during this period, and for that I must apologize. I just hope they can see that this was part of my healing process.
In the months of my struggling to find a way out of the abyss I have almost no recollection of people and events, women I dated, promises I may have made, people I may have offended. Instead I relived and reworked the memories of Emily, the months of love and loss and might-have-beens. It was obsession of course, those persistent thoughts; I couldn’t just block her out of my mind. Probably I didn’t want to.
I had been dating for about three months and already beginning to feel discouraged. Rather than feel the excitement of the new, I felt only increasing cynicism. I may have been living as if my hair was on fire but my energy was being sapped. But I was compelled to carry on, and match.com kept sending me prospects.
I preferred ‘organic dating’ – going out with people I already knew, if only slightly, or be introduced to somebody – but I knew the name of the game in 2018 was on-line dating. Kinda like a lottery – if I wanted to win a prize I had to buy a ticket – and maybe just as soul-destroying. I took a deep breath and posted my bond and my profile on match.com.
After that dream, and all through that awful summer of Emily yo-yo-ing me I had considered hanging myself more than a few times from various staircases, but now, while visiting Marlene, I thought the branch of the tree reaching over her headstone would do nicely. I wondered where I had put my rope.
If I was to be a real author, not a closet pretender, I needed to sell a lot more of my books.
Despite my reservations, and fear, I wanted to get wider exposure. I wanted affirmation. Endless ego needs may have been at the base of all this, but if I wanted exposure, I had to promote my books. As any author, successful and otherwise, will attest, the better mousetrap gets no attention by itself.
My plunge into the abyss lasted four months. Maybe abyss is the wrong metaphor; it didn’t feel like falling into a black hole. It felt more like I was walking underwater, trudging, dragging my feet on a sandy bottom with an undertow holding me under. And maybe this agitated aimlessness lasted longer than four months. It wasn’t as if I suddenly woke up one day and felt well. But from August to December I have only fractured memory of what happened to me. Here’s a list of what I do remember.
I knew I was having an emotional episode, even though I had never experienced anything like this before. This is what is commonly called a ‘nervous breakdown’; though professional people don’t use the term anymore, it nevertheless feels apt if you are experiencing one.
I drove to the cemetery to consult with Marlene, but she had nothing to say to me. In the fog of my grief I had hoped Emily would be the answer to my next stage of life. Now I felt completely alone. I was a mess, an admixture of anger and anxiety, possessiveness and petulance.
And I already ‘knew’ about Grief, Empathy and Aging. But I didn’t really ‘know’. You cannot know these things until you have actually experienced the depth of feeling these can demand of you. But my year in the Fog brought whole new lessons.
All through that fall and winter I had been gently but steadily moving ahead with the task of downsizing my household. It was a painful but necessary step to me redefining my life following Marlene’s death. I now had too much house, and too much stuff for one man living alone.
Of the 105 subscribers, about 55 (not always the same 55) are reported as ‘Open’ed but of those only about half Click through to the blog site itself. This is not surprising really, it’s only my tender ego that expects all my readers are eager to read my latest post.
As our relationship progressed, I began to ask myself what sort of relationship I really had with Emily. ‘You are too unstable for us to think about this relationship. It has only been a few months and you are grieving hard for Marlene. And so am I. We are not ready for a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.’ Emily found lots of evidence of my instability. There were many signs:
At the Kingston station I noticed a young couple greeting each other with an excited kiss on the platform. I smiled at this public display of affection and then a dull yearning began in my chest. I suddenly had an impulse to text Emily. Was she available to have dinner with me that evening when I got back?
The fog of grief was real enough: I lost concentration, I had no plans, I was forgetful. I couldn’t sleep. I knew there were things I needed to do to start putting my life back together, but not today, maybe tomorrow. I went to grief counseling; I read many books about grief. I finally read The Emperor of all Maladies. All I wanted to do was escape all this grieving stuff.
And there she was.
Marlene’s condition gradually, inevitably, worsened. The tumour in her intestines may have been arrested but the damage had been done. Intestinal occlusion was the consequence.