Ten years ago, a little more and a little less, life as I had known it came to an end. Professionally and financially and socially and emotionally, I was undone. It was pretty painful. Took me the better part of a decade to get over it, as much as I'm likely to. No need here for details. It has to do with betrayal and a man's understanding of family. It illustrates that compassion can be a vice. No matter. I've covered that ground before.
I understand my weakness. I'm awfully secretive about it, but I've faced it. The specific relevance now, or rather last night, has to do with the sense of abandonment and isolation I've felt since I've been aware of feeling anything. My first memories, unfortunately, have to do with toilet training. The one I have in mind was leaving a preschool, and seeing a line of very little children, two or three years old or whatever, all hunched over in the middle of a big room, on their little potties, going. I was of that age, but I remember thinking how very strange that was. The word, now, would be alienated. That's how the world has always seemed to me. Inappropriate.
I'm told that as an infant I would grasp the bars of a playpen and just howl to be out. I'm told as an infant I would lie down, ridged with rage, convulsing with rage, my white hair flopping. I suppose I wanted to be held. I suppose I wanted to be let out. Of course there was neglect. But it was 1961, and parents were much stupider in that era. Evidently.
Now, when something goes very wrong, my first feeling is of helplessness and abandonment and isolation. Then I regroup, and grow up, and get rational, and seek to deal with the problem. So last night my car just died on the freeway. I'd had the oil changed that very day, so my thinking is that there was some professional incompetence involved, that ruined my engine. But the exigent problem was towing, and I wasn't a member of the AAA.
Hard to think, under that particular pressure, but I ran down the list of people I know. Start with the closest, in town -- upon consideration, I wasn't really comfortable pretending to be someone else, to use their membership. Move concentrically out. No one answering. Try to contact my brothers. Cell phones, it seems, are not listed in the United States of America. Who knew. Called my son, an hour away. He added me online to his AAA, and I got the tow.
My car is not good. I got it in a bad deal, as a sort of favor. Favor from me. My truck had been T-boned, totaled, and I gave the insurance money to my foolish mother, and got this current not-good car in return. So I'd rather replace it than fix it. Matter of which is cheaper. I'm afraid fixing it will be. Look, a $600 car is fine with me. I'm not looking to impress the chicks. Just need transportation, reliable, that won't get stopped by the cops. I'm strange that way. Kind of a bottom-line sort of guy. Cost-benefit.
But that makes me sound more practical than I am. This year my income is between half and a third of what it was up to the first half of last year. I've been unable to pursue some of my previous sources of income, time-wise. For a while I just eliminated all discretionary spending. I'm low-maintenance. Most of my previous income went to my idiot relatives anyway, trying to keep them above water. It's complicated. No, I'm not a practical guy at all.
But I've had friends, and I've had no friends, and believe me, friends is better. Even the short short little list, now, of people I feel I might impose on, abruptly, is a comfort, when I stop to think about it. There have been years and years and years when the only intimate touch I've felt was from my son. And years and years when there was nothing at all. I am a hugger. But only with people I love. One gets out of practice.
I don't know what to do about it. I am bound by my nature -- which is reserved and watchful, and generous and enthusiastic, all in its measure. I am an optimistic man born into circumstances to make one untrustful. It has amounted to a pervading spiritual paralysis. What to do, what to do.
Well, first, get the damn car fixed, or something.
After that, I'll run down the list that's been in my wallet since the late '70s, about what to do, with my life.