Is it normal to feel, at the age of 38, like you are just starting to figure out how to live a good, satisfying human life?

Since coming out of my reproductive coma, I’ve been wandering into a particular state in which I feel like I can see and understand all of the things.

Or most of the things.

Or at least some of the things.

Like last week when we were with our friends March and Dev and she said something about AJ, I don’t even remember what it was, but suddenly this little chamber of knowledge just burst open, and I realized that all of the hurtful things AJ has done since we had Jo, essentially none of them were done with malice in his heart. He hasn’t been actively trying to destroy me all this time. Dare I say he has wanted to be helpful the vast majority of the time.

I’ve had little whiffs of that truth before, but nothing like this – just standing in the middle of it, all the time in the world to look around, touch, breathe, get my bearings.

Photo by Dave Morris
Photo by Dave Morris

Knowing what I suddenly knew in that space let me look back and rewrite memories that fueled resentment in me for a long time.

Back when Jo was a baby, when AJ would be angry about the way I would ask for help, and when I would feel horribly misunderstood and eventually despondent – that whole sad, missed connection song and dance wasn’t driven by AJs repeated desire to abandon me. In fact, as my friend Zelda aptly pointed out, “He hasn’t ever experienced mental illness before.” By jove! I don’t think he has. I remember asking him, between post-coital drags on a cigarette back in our early 20s, if he had ever been depressed.

After a long silence, he said “I don’t think so.”

I don’t either.

Oh! The inescapable tragedy of a relationship with another human being. They come into the whole damn thing with this wholly Other set of understandings of how things should or shouldn’t be. So then it’s perfectly natural that after you make a baby with said person and find yourself in the midst of obliteration by motherhood and post-partum hormones, that you would feel desperate and scared and ask him for lots of help. But maybe, probably, you didn’t always ask nicely or politely – maybe, probably, because you were at the bottom of a hormonal well and maybe, probably because you were raised on a steady diet of co-dependence and so you were angry that you had to ask for help at all because he should have noticed you were hungry or tired or desperate for something. And then, perhaps he thought, “This way I’m being treated is really rude and impolite, and I don’t want to be treated this way and therefore I will call a great deal of attention to it, so that maybe it will stop.” And then it makes sense that you would tire of even asking for help, because of the argument and criticism that would ensue.

And so, there we found ourselves. For quite some time. Me in a state of painful despondency that pickled into anger and resentment. He in some other sort of state that also pickled into anger and resentment.

It is hard to have a relationship and then a baby with a whole other human person.

Ugh. Just writing it all out like that I already lost the feeling of clarity I started with. I think what I was trying to say was that I’m finally learning how to live my life.

Like, how is it that some people just seem to know how to spend a weekend? How is it that some people aren’t tugged into existential dread every time they face an expanse of free time?

To me, something about free time evokes the terror of space. Limitless airless air on every possible side of you, going on into black nothing forever and ever. And there you are, just floating. Alone. Forever.

But this weekend, another one of those little chambers of knowing something just burst open. And I was relaxing like a normal person on the weekend. I puttered. I painted. I drank some wine and watched a caterpillar.

Is it possible we just have these little pockets inside ourselves that know all the things we need to know and they’re just patiently waiting for us, like that cave in France with all of the prehistoric paintings on the walls? Those boys were just playing and wandering, with all the freedom and ease particular to boyhood. And boom. They find themselves deep inside with all these answers that were painted foreverago and now they’re just right in front of them.

Is it the same for us? Little chambers, caves, spaces with dust hanging in the air. Just existing, all this time. With the things we need inside.