I have been having the kind of week where I am…run down. I don’t mean that in a melodramatic way — I mean that in a perfectly ordinary way. I’m quite good at making things into existential crises. I use big words to frame simple ideas.
But sometimes, the trains simply don’t run on time, and I find that infuriating. I am kept up late by things beyond my control. And so I find I must put Tums in the candy dish instead of chocolates (predictable that I have a candy dish; unpredictable that I’d fill it with chocolates since I don’t like them — actually, quite predictable, since I have a notorious sweet tooth and that dish would be empty every night if I filled it with candy that I liked).
My life is incredibly scheduled and ordered. Perhaps it doesn’t look that way, because the dishes aren’t done, or the laundry is not put away, or there are stacks of paper in my office. But I graduated summa cum laude from the Big Tom School of Micro Management, where the Don, Dean, Judge, Jury and Executioner — Big Tom himself — made me write proposals for everything I wanted from the time I was four years old onward. Big Tom, of course, is the man who once (recently) bawled me out because — while I planned a Mt Whitney climb over a period of several months, and sent weekly, then daily, emails and plans and schedules — I didn’t give him an updated departure plan for our team.
PS: The departure plans had been interrupted due to Hurricane Irene.
So. You can see why I find changes to plans a bit upsetting.
This week has brought one revised schedule after another, along with a series of annoying and stressful matters along the way. So while I seem to be having an existential crisis, it’s not that at all. I’m annoyed. And am shouting about it in the words that you used to dread having to deal with on your spelling list.
That disclaimer aside, I’ve been working on something that precisely one person I know might truly understand (for a number of reasons). That person was my ex-husband. We were the type of couple who would bring work home; would sit in bed and talk about work. Work work work. We never stopped with the work.
So when the challenges of the week caught up with me, I wanted to climb under the covers of spousal privilege again. For the first time in years, I missed the man himself. I missed my marriage — not merely the idea of it.
What a weird, empty feeling!
It occurred to me only recently that I had been trying to preempt or prevent that feeling for a long time by way of obsessively cataloguing my life. Not in a hoarding way, mind you, but in the manner of snapshots, and journals, and strategically saved essays and emails.
When I was a freshman in high school, I sat in a science class as we discussed the burial of toxic waste. How would you warn future generations of the danger? There were a variety of options — since there was no guarantee that modern language would survive. And there was no way to know whether our skull and crossbones, or similar, would have a very different future meaning.
So we talked through the various proposed options, but the one I liked best was “Menacing Earthworks” — giant spikes and towers meant to communicate so much more than danger ahead; danger below.
I wonder then, if the whole of the things that I have collected has been to try to create something large and imposing, even if and after words fail to protect me. I suppose that is what I’ve feared the most: The moment when the vocabularly of existential crisis and the fifty-cent words can no longer obscure a lonely pinnacle.
But this has been just a week; just a day. Merely a moment, and it passed.
It passed because I missed him, and then I had to deal with a bill my ex-husband sent me for residual interest on a sum that no longer mattered, and nine years of life and love; marriage and friendship was reduced to $186.91.
Today, I wrote him out the amount, and enclosed with it a note on my social stationery — the stuff recently bought; the first purchased since we split.
Then I sat, and I put my head down, and I finished the project he might’ve understood — but not before opening a fortune cookie, as I am wont to do.
And I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was, that someone in a fortune cookie factory somewhere in London understood the concept of menacing earthworks. And I shouldn’t have been shocked, either, that things happen at exactly the right time.
Perhaps the right timing is not always mine.