Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Existential Autumn

My sleep is definitely disturbed - although sometimes I suspect that my entire sleep pattern has changed now that I'm over fifty.  Despite AARPs marketing claim that Fifty is the New Thirty, once you cross over to this side of Fifty, you're in the old poop zone.  The only reason it's the New Thirty is that our life spans have increased and we'll all be working for another 25 or 30 years.

The leaves were changing up in Connecticut this weekend.  They'll probably be falling off the trees when I pass through the Catskills in a couple of weeks to go visit Velvet.  Family and Alumni Weekend up at Tree Hugger is in mid-October.  It's occurred to me that we're fully into the woods these days, Velvet and I.  Last year, he and I were both entering new phases of our lives:  He was going off to college and I was on my own for the very first time.  The Sondheim musical, Into the Woods, still serves as a good model and metaphor for our life situation, but this year, neither one of us is searching for a path.  We've each found a path that has taken us farther on the journey.

Although I like the idea that The Journey is The Destination, I still think there is a destination.  That destination is probably just another path for another journey - but still, you're heading somewhere, even if you don't know exactly where you're going. Yet.

Velvet is apparently doing well on his current path.  We're still waiting to see the grades from the latest round of assignments and tests, but he felt comfortable.  He's still in the springtime of his life, though, while I'm in the Autumn of mine.  My summer was taken up with parenting, therapy and healing - not necessarily in that order. Autumn will probably be more of the same except without the therapy.  I love Buzz Kill, and am grateful for our time together, but once I stopped going to therapy, it was clear that I had turned to my therapist for a parenting partner.  Buzz Kill and I cannot ever be partners, but we've developed a decent working relationship.

The trees here in New York City are mostly still green, but there's a chill in the air.  Listening to the wind in the leaves outside my window, I'm satisfied with the way things have turned out.  I can't deny, however, that even though Buzz Kill was my husband, and we will always be connected because he's the father of my child, something has always been missing from that relationship.  Relationships have life spans just like people. Buzz Kill and I had a good run, mostly, but once something has lived its life, it's over.  I have to wonder, though, if Buzz Kill and I wouldn't have one of those life long relationships if something fundamental were not missing.

Since I have a circle of life long friends, which includes a couple of life long lovers, I can conclude that I'm capable of that sort of thing.  From a safe distance, anyway.  One thing you can't escape in Autumn is thinking of Winter, and like Gillian Welch says, Time's a Relevator. 

Over time, we have revelations about Life, about ourselves and our relationships.  We become more and less relevant to those around us.

Back when Buzz Kill and I got married, I still thought that people could complete each other.  Be the missing piece that filled your soul.  Lots of people believe that, but you live and you learn that you're complete in and of yourself.  You bring your complete self into a relationship - or at least you should bring your complete self.  We often try to hide the more unattractive aspects, not only from our others but also from our own selves, out of fear.  That's just human. We're sad, pathetic creatures, after all, surrounded by beauty that we often forget to see and touch.  Now that I've taken responsibility for my own inner peace, and released that frantic clinging to patterns and people, I'm much more content and complete - but I'm yearning for The Other.

I can't tell if I'm longing to be relevant to someone in a generalized way, or if this Other I'm missing is a real person.  Naturally, there is a real person involved.  I'm just not sure if my longing for him is reality based or if it's Existential.  Fairy Tales provide a framework to look at human needs and questions.  When you're dealing with something concrete, physical needs like food and shelter, for example, the path is well traveled and clear.  You just have to make sure you don't trade your cow for magic beans.

This longing must be explained in another story.  I don't know which story I'm living right now, but it's got something to do with Surrender.  I'm pretty sure the man in question is feeling the longing too, or else he wouldn't be talking to me at all.  We've needed to be separate, and we accomplished that by fighting. We both know about fighting, but I don't think he knows about surrender.  I, on the other hand, may know too much.  The tantalizing thing about The Other is the promise of balance.


Vancouver Voyeur said...

Fall is a time for introspection, self-evaluation, and preparing for the coming winter. I always liked Fall for that because it encouraged me to write and pour out on paper all the things I was feeling, thinking about and once I got all that outside of me and could look at it on paper, I saw other things that I wasn't previously aware of. I needed to pull the thoughts and emotions out and separate from them to see them from another perspective. My favorite music for winding down for the Fall and preparing to settle in for the Winter is Gordon Lightfoot. I find his music moody and a bit lonely, but very soul satisfying. I am also reminded of Sarah MacLachlan's "Surrender." Okay, now I'm in the mood to go write but I have a full day of teaching ahead of me. Maybe on the weekend.

Beach Bum said...

Not sound flippant but while I am slowly edging closer to the big 50 I am going to do my best to keep my 20-something attitude.

I agree about the the Journey is the Destination, we are always headed toward something but that just creates another journey.

Great Post!

Anonymous said...

The autumn of our lives. A new page, in life. When I was young, all ever wanted was a husband who loved me and 10 kids. And to be a stay at home mom. HA.. My first marriage was a sham, and was short lived. The second one has been (married) 31 years, with an additional 3, until I said I do. If second child had not a severe case of ADHD, that might have been a different story. However, we spent, 16 years trying to make him ok, so he did not hurt himself or someone else. And that ended badly. So having to bury a child, and living thru, that, took the better part of 4 years, to go a day without crying. Third child ended up being side lined, for the attention that was given to 2nd or at least she still feels that way. The funny thing is spent so much time tending to children, we both forgot about ourselves. still struggle with what do I want. This is a another year closer to the big 60, am not there yet mind feels like 30 something, however body, is going downhill fast. Any way am rambling, guess am fournatue, in that do have someone who loves me. Sometimes we do not like each other very well. We are both very different people, in my old age am getting cranky, and tend not to let much pass. Life is about compromise, and suppose that am cranky and not letting much pass because I can. He needs me as much as I need him. Tend to take one day at a time. And try not to over think, whatever situation comes my way. Time is a great healer. With all of this sharing, am sorry do ramble.. Enjoy your trip up north, it's really pretty. now, however raining cats and dogs, many days of that, trees will be bare.
Pat from NY

Gail said...


great piece of writing. Your self knowing is wonderful, with a peace to it that is calming and quite real. I have said for some time now that "I have arrived".... and that is not to say that I am not always headed somewhere it means that I have no major quest or goal but rather I am at a time in my life of preserving all that I hold dear.And I am past 50!!

Love you Texas
peace and hope.....

Lisa said...

I just love the way you write. Your line We become more and less relevant to those around us. is especially poignant.

PENolan said...

V.V. - all that introspection kicks into high gear with Rosh Hashanah, and I'm not even Jewish. Hope you have a great weekend.

Beach, Being 50 is liberating in a million ways. Plenty of people have told me that being around me is like being with a kid.

Gail, Happy October xoxo
Lisa, thanks and back at cha.

Pat, I'm so sorry for what you went through with your son and glad your husband has been there for you and your other kids. My parents are 70 now and swear the marriage is much better now that they are both deaf. Can't hear all the wisecracks and grumbling.

Susan Tiner said...

I love the way you reflect on your life and marriage. Thank you for this post.

PENolan said...

Susan, thank YOU for being here.

Mr. Charleston said...

Don't confuse surrendering with giving up. Surrendering is akin to being conqured, giving up, on the other hand, is fuck it, I quit. It sounds to me like the freedom you are feeling comes from fuck it, I quit liberation. Some time ago, after a lifetime of accommodating people, I made the decision that I was no longer going to tolerate assholes. It's made me somewhat of a scurrilous old bastard and put some people off, but it sure feels good. Fuck it, I quit. But like you, I too love the Fall, and Gillian. First saw her years ago at Merlefest and been a fan ever since.

Jaliya said...

Hon, your "New Thirty" thoughts are right on ...

Into the woods: yes ... "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I ..."

... I read your post two, three times and so much of it rings so true that I could have written these words in my own hand.

Thanks ... xoxo

PENolan said...

Mr.C, you sound very military with all that Being Conquered thing. There's a very big distinction between Giving UP and Giving IN, or letting go of the idea that you (or more specifically your ego) can control something. More like deciding to float downstream instead of fiercely swimming upstream. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Although speaking as a woman who has been compared to Kate in Taming of the Shrew -- there's something very nice about being conquered.

Jaliya - Love and Light

Mr. Charleston said...

LOL Yes, I believe it's the same thing said differently. In your case, much more eloquently.. Kate.

Anonymous said...

Your parents, think about the same way, I do. If you don't hear it or see it, so much for the better. Kinda like our children, what we don't know does not hurt us. YOur comment made me laugh out loud, am at work, a co-worker, had to stop by to see what made me laugh out loud. :)
Pat from NY

Jennifer said...

Feeling the same pal - all over the board. And yeah, there is always a certain amount of desire for change and new paths every autumn. I like that "tantalizing promise of balance." That's it. My problem is I never seem to meet anybody who isn't happy just balancing along all by himself. It's amazing how I can scope them out. I'm thinking that my uncanny ability to only find unavailable men has got to have something to do with something off balance in me. Working on it...

Great post - you're a beautiful, insightful writer, and as always, gave food for thought.

PENolan said...

Jen - I've traditionally gone for emotionally unavailable men, then struggled to have an impact. And it would make sense to have finally met my match just as I'm leaving town. Could be that the impending distance geographically will clear the way for emotional intimacy.
Or not.
Hard to say with this fellow. No matter what, though, I've learned a lot from interacting with him over these last four years.

Mr C - you flatter me.
Pat - may your work day be filled with many more chuckles.

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