The passage below is lifted directly from John Casey's The Half-Life of Happiness (first link to the book from the NY Times Review and and this from Steven E. Alford for Alfred A. Knopf Review both of which summarize the book; neither do it justice. IMNSHO)
The quote in the middle is my point but it can't be made outside the context of the conversation between the two sisters, Edith and Nora on their way to the last family reunion which is taking place 20 years after Edith's telling of the story.
My issue with the reviews above is that both miss the point (in my opinion) of our general misunderstanding that 'happiness' of any sort has a half-life and that there is an after, as opposed to a fixed 'ever-after' and that when it doesn't meet our expectations we either move on or grasp onto the past with all our might or flounder for awhile or maybe forever un-moored and unsure of what to do or be or go next as if the best or only part of life is over.
John Casey wrote a book called Spartina which I believe was received as the second coming. In any event, this isn't meant as a review at all; I simply found a passage toward the very end that knocked me on my ass last night and lacking a pen scandalized my daughter who immediately accused me of dishonoring a book in the very worst way ("Really, Elizabeth? Writing in the book or burning it wouldn't be worse? And also, it's MY book, not a library book or a borrowed book of any other sort and I can do with it what I like and what I like right now is to mark a place that I feel is quite important and I want to be able to find it again in the morning and even later when I pick up the book again.") when I dog earred the page to the binding to remind myself in the morning to fetch it.
I read the passage last night and went "Whooph..."
"She said, this is what Mom was reading aloud on the radio when Dad didn't recognize her voice. It's not by her, it's from some nineteenth-century woman's diary. It's about living alone in middle age.
"I have suffered for the whole winter of a sort of mental paralysis, and at times have feared the disease extended to my affections. It is difficult for one who began life as I did, the primary object of affection to many, to come by degrees to be the first to none, and still to have my love remain in its entire strength, and craving such returns as have no substitute."
I said, "Whoever she is, she's asking for the moon."
"It's not about asking. It's what she felt,and the reason Mom picked it to read is because she felt that way too. That was when Bonnie One moved away when she didn't get Tenure, and she and Mom sort of broke up, and Mom stayed in town so she could be with us even though we were in high school and getting ready to light out on our own."
"All right," I said. "It is sad. I'm abashed. Why are you abashing me?" I thought I sounded lighthearted.
Nora said, "Because you're a hard-ass puritan. You believe in work and love, and that's okay, but you want people to work at work that has no corruption in it and you want people to love with love that has no corruption in it...."
"Oh", thought Alecto, "so that's what that's all about. Makes perfect sense why it feels like sometimes there's a hole in my middle so big I can feel the wind blow (shameless theft from Paul Simon). I've been looking for the words all this time and there they are in black and white and while that's certainly not the half of it that's a good part."
I'm not asking for the world. I'm just saying how I feel. There's a lot more to it that that too. I was talking to Little Girl's therapist on Saturday. Apparently that appointment was meant for me, not Little Girl and it also turned out I didn't need the 2x4 because, well just because my assumptions made from prior experiences with Cletus's therapist were way off base. One of the things I said after telling her what my days looked like these days and being told that it must be awfully hard right now to have very little of anything that was just mine was that it wasn't even so much that as having nobody with me to share in that panic or those extremes and worse yet, nobody to hold me or nobody to hold at the end of the day. Nobody at all to tell me I matter. Because, as I explained to Little Girl when we were talking about choices and money and what I could do to make more money and why I didn't do those things (for example, I could become a consultant, hit the road and sharply increase my income and someone else would raise my child. Or not) it was more important to me to be with her RIGHT NOW IN THIS TIME. That the most important thing in the world was to be her mother just now. And that is what matters. And also, it makes me very happy to be in that place.
She got it.
I got it.
So it isn't a complaint. It's just how I feel and I think, more so than the overwhelm, that might be why I find myself crying or needing to cry so much of the time and also as the hard ass puritan a lot of the reason I don't allow it.