Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spinning My Wheels

Maybe we’ve progressed to one step forward, one step back.  Still, I don’t find this a particularly satisfying way to conduct a marriage.

We live in peace most of the time.  But that seems to be as good as it’s going to get.  Just when I start to think that maybe there will be something more…maybe we will rebuild our love for each other, or even begin construction on a new love that makes sense for who we are now…the whole rickety foundation of burnt bridges and thrown stones shifts and collapses.  And we are right back to living in peace.  As good as it gets.

We don’t have those knock-down drag-outs that had become our custom at the height of our entrepreneurial trial by fire.  Mostly because I won’t engage.  I can’t fight like that anymore.  And when I see one of those coming, I drop everything and back away tout de suite.  I’m becoming expert at speeding away from the scene of the potential crime.  In reverse.

But I hate going backward.  I hate not being able to gain any forward momentum.  I hate not being able to pick a spot somewhere beyond We’re-Not-Yelling-at-Each-Other-Anymore and say, “This is where my marriage is today.” 

Too much damage was done during those café years.  I have managed to leave the experience behind me, for the most part.  I can’t say I’ve made peace with it.  It’s more like I’ve simply cut it out of my life.  I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off and kept walking without looking back.  Mostly because it’s too painful to look back.  But partly because I see those five years as a gigantic black hole in my life.  I’m sure I learned something from the whole thing, but I’m still—after three years—afraid to examine it all too closely.  Afraid I’ll get sucked back into that negative vortex in which I existed for most of that time. 

The one thing I have not been able to put behind me, not been able to dust off, is the damage to my marriage.  It’s the one relationship tainted by my colossal crash and burn from which I have not been able to walk away.  I live with it every day.  I can’t say I’ve tried like hell to fix it.  But I have worked as hard as I can to hold it together, to keep it from blowing up in our faces.  I keep thinking if I hold it together long enough, the fuse will burn out and there will no longer be any danger of an explosion.

On days like this, I understand that time has not yet arrived…          

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The New American Currency

It could be that I suffered from terminal political naïveté during the waning decades of the twentieth century.  In the sixties and seventies,  even as a teen too young to vote, I believed that my voice—added to all the others of my generation demanding equality, environmentalism and an end to our forebears’ established bigotries—made a difference.  We clamored for change.  We swung our world in the direction of open-mindedness, acceptance and living in harmony with each other and with our planet.  We created change.  And the change was good. 

In my callow youth, I believed the changes we’d wrought would last forever.  The changes represented steps forward for humanity and our nation.  How could we keep from just…continuing to go forward?  No one believes the world will go backward.  Who could have guessed that the things for which we stood, the change we created, would weaken and crumble and blow away in the wind?  Or be trampled to bits by subsequent generations, our over-indulged children and grandchildren, who grew up believing themselves to be the center of the known universe?  And acted accordingly—materially, politically and morally.  We tried to pass the baton to our kids, but they were too busy talking on their cell phones and playing video games to grab it.  Whereupon we just dropped the baton in the cinders, turned around and headed for the exits.   

And so our nation has come to where it is today:  Americans have abandoned any pretense of—indeed, any germ of respect for—following a moral high road.  If an action doesn’t put more money in someone’s pocket, make our enemies (neighbors?) shake in their boots or titillate the senses to the point of near-insanity, we don’t go there.  Everything is extreme, over-the-top, hysterical and in-your-face.   Quiet courage?  We don’t give it a thought.  Nose-to-the-grindstone toil for the good of…someone else?  We have no interest.

There’s a term bandied about quite ubiquitously these days:  Political Capital.  Military strategies are funded with it.  Elections are structured for the purpose of collecting it; our national policy revolves around it.  Our government is founded upon the stockpiling and subsequent doling out of this ideological currency.

At what point did we drop our morals like a tanking stock and invest everything in politics?  What did we think “political capital” could buy us that our long and lovingly held moral standards did not?  Why did we—the ponderous throng of Post-war Baby Boomers—abandon our moral stock and throw our coins into the coffers of political capital?  And what is that ultimately going to buy us?

We had better figure it out, because moral bankruptcy is a fact of American life here in the 21st century.  And I’m pretty sure there’s not a bail-out for that.                

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It's Raining. Yay.

Those who do not live here cannot fully comprehend the gloom of the Pacific Northwest winters.  I remember back in 1975, making the obligatory Holiday Long Distance Phone call to my sister, who had moved to Oregon the year before.  We were sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner in suburban Chicago; it was probably 35 degrees outside and there was likely snow on the ground.  And my sister smugly informed us that it was 60 degrees and partly cloudy in Eugene.  Exclamations of amazement and jealous glances were exchanged around the table.

What my sister failed to impart, and probably didn’t even realize herself, as she’d only been in Oregon for less than a year at that point, was that while Oregon may have (relatively, and not always) “mild” winters, they come with their own set of challenges.  Days on end of oppressive gloom, torrents of rain from Pacific storms, landslides, flooding and power outages are our constant companions from October through April.  I know the East and Midwest are getting socked with snow and cold this winter.  But I have to say, at least they get to see the sun on a more or less regular basis.  All those jokes about “Residents are terrified by an unidentified object spotted in the skies over Oregon this morning…oh wait; it’s the sun…” and “Oregonians don’t tan, they rust”? They have their basis in indisputable fact.

Today is one such day.  Sideways rain, blustery wind, and at 9:30 AM, the sky has brightened all the way to a shade past twilight.  I come down the stairs in the morning making like Tinkerbelle lighting the Magic Kingdom—I turn on every light in the place as I make my way through the house.  It’s my only defense against the pervasive gloom.  Sure, it’s 53 degrees outside, but there’s no working or even going out-of-doors today, for more than just quick forays to the mailbox or to bring in the trash cans before they blow down the street. 

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the rain.  I really do.  And I love Oregon.  But sometimes, I wish that it wouldn’t rain quite so…enthusiastically here.  For three quarters of the year.  Sigh.