“I left that marriage because I was miserable. Now that I’m divorced I’m miserable and alone.”
This is a message that I hear a lot. Not just about marriage but about relationships in general and jobs too. We think that our misery has an external focus when it may well be us that are in need of fixing. (I am in no way suggesting anyone should stay in an abusive relationship or keep a job that we hate, just that frequently the cure does not even address the disease.)
I just got home from a week at the seashore with my wife, our two early twenty-something sons, one son’s fiance, a sister in law, a niece, two grand-nieces and two grand-nephews. As a bicycle mechanic in the northern hemisphere I had been swamped with work starting around Saint Patrick’s Day and crescendoing in late July. My nerves were frayed, my patience had run short and I was in need of R & R. The warm waves of the Atlantic beckoned and we five drove the 1,100 mile/1,600Km, 16 hour drive in a rented van that only my darling and I were allowed to drive as the rental agreement states no drivers under 25 years of age. That made for a long day of travel in both directions with only two drivers!
I would love to say that my idyll by the sea left me a new man but I return with only a slight easing of my psychic prickliness. The problem is that the me who left is the me who came back. I wrote a few poems, started writing a new play, studied lines for the play whose rehearsal I missed while vacationing, read books, played in the sand, had a few adventures, but I didn’t make any breakthroughs in my life nor strengthen any connections. What’s that old saw about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Crazy.
I do feel refreshed though. Refreshed to be home! Which brings me back to my unspoken question, how will we ever find happiness when we don’t know what we want, just that we want something different? My younger son had me read two autobiographical books by 1960’s The Doors band members Ray Manzarek and John Densmore about the band. Doors’ imagery, thoughts on psychedelic drug usage, excess, class warfare, floundering, balancing the thrill of letting go against the need for self care weighed heavily on my mind this last week. (See how many Doors’ references are in my poems from 08/17 through 08/23. I haven’t counted yet.)
The single activity of my vacation that made me feel most alive was my initiation into the use of jet skis. My family of five and the two older children who were with us rented four of these quick, agile play-toys and had a lot of fun learning how to use them. They can hit speeds of 50mph/80kph and slicing over even the tiny waves in the bay tend to throw the rider around quite a bit. My wife and our younger son are gifted athletes and I thoroughly enjoyed trying to hang with them as the zigzagged along the water. The Doors soundtrack was playing in my head and when I got too scared I would belt out, “Break on through to the other side!” in my attempt to not let fear hold me back. I can’t help but wonder what it says about someone who has to have the potential for harm in his life to feel like he’s even here.
Break on through.