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First Person Personal

My personal views on a variety of matters ranging from popular culture to quantum physics to religion to politics to history to bushido to ... well, whatever I feel like, really. Warning: we all have agendas. Trust no one totally, myself most specifically included. Email me at wbrerwolf at gmail.com

Saturday, June 18, 2005

For All The Girls I've Loved Before - In Retrospect

“Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” – Frederick Nietchze

This is a very classic Germanic viewpoint and also inaccurate. Some things don’t kill you outright but damage you so badly that you are non-functional. Still, there is a certain rhetorical truth to it: things that threaten you very badly cause you to attempt to grow in an attempt to deal with the threat or prevent its recurrence.

This phrase comes to mind a lot when I think about my experiences with women.

Every relationship I have had with a woman has damaged me in one way or another, but has also caused me to grow and develop in an attempt to deal with the problem of the Other. I think that this is true to a greater or lesser extent with every human being. I am reminded that pearls are how an oyster attempts to deal with an intrusion into itself – covering the original damage with layer after layer of increasing beauty.

In each one of my relationships, I have brought away valuable and useful things. From L I learned that it was necessary to get off of my butt in a relationship. From M I learned that sometimes a relationship isn’t worth continuing. From C I learned that I was better than I thought I was. From E I learned that I could lose everything that I loved without warning and that I should love and cherish what I had while I had it.

And from S I learned how much better a person I could be. As Jack Nicholson’s character says in As Good As It Gets, she makes me want to be a better man.

S is the mirror in which I view myself and constantly find myself to need serious improvement. I am admirably suited for living in a cave two thirds of the way up a mountain and pronouncing cryptic utterances to my students.

I am extremely poorly suited for any closer relationship with humanity than this.

I am so bad at social situations that I did not realize until recently just how non-functional I am as a social creature. With rare exceptions, my personal relationships are superficial, my social skills are vestigial and I do not really care most of the time that this is so. My impulse is to live inside of my head with ideas instead of in the world with people. While some of my actions may be interpreted as altruistic, the fact of the matter is that I do “good” things as a matter of general maintenance: if the people around me are happy, then my environment is more comfortable. Thus it is to my benefit to make sure that the people around me are happy insofar as I can do this with minimal effort.

S, E and C all seemed to want to do good to those around them for its own sake, not for any benefit to them. In addition, each of them put in a Hell of a lot more effort into good works that I do. I have assisted each of these ladies in various ways, but doing good for the sake of doing good is not a thought that comes naturally to me.

In short, I learn about what I should be by examining examples of what I am not.

And, given my shortcomings, this is extremely painful for me at times. While I do not care about good manners or networking very much, I want, as all humans do, to be appreciated and valued. And I have spent almost fifty years doing this in almost exactly the wrong way. I have concentrated on knowledge rather than social skills only to discover that nobody wants a person who only has knowledge but they are willing to work with someone who fits in and can develop the knowledge skills they desire.

Five years ago I thought of myself as a fairly decent human being who has had some bad breaks. Now I think of myself as a failed social animal and believe that the vast bulk of my failures are due to this flaw. On the social level, I tend not to carry my own weight in any relationship.

On the other hand, while I am not everything I thought I was, I am also not as bad as I feared I was and I am getting better. Producing this blog is one of my steps towards sanity. I am of the opinion that the more accurately I model reality in my mind, the better I will be able to live in reality. That is to say that the more honest I am about what is going on with me and the world, the better off I will be. I find that honesty requires an audience, preferably a skeptical one. In this blog, I attempt to be honest with the serial numbers filed off, that is to say that I am minimizing the risk involved in honesty by making it difficult for the average reader to find out who I am. I think that the honesty is more important than making my identity public, but this could be just another example of my moral cowardice. Time will tell.

Time will also tell how my relationship with S progresses and concludes. While both of us believe in the “Until Death do us part” portion of the oath, S occasionally fears that she will get to the point where she can no longer deal with my shortcomings. “If I had wanted a five-year old, I would have had one,” is probably a fair paraphrase of how she feels about me on a bad day.

If she ever gets to that point, I will leave as completely as possible. Without her, there is no really good reason to remain in this state or even in the nation itself. There would also be no particularly good reason to be deeply concerned about my life expectancy, so I could take a fairly high-risk gig in Iraq and rebuild my finances quickly.

I don’t think that it will come to this, for S knows that I am trying very, very hard and we both love each other deeply.

Still, S is mortal.

C. S. Lewis wrote A Grief Observed after his wife died. In it, he makes the point that couples are particularly uncomfortable around a widow or a widower because on some level everyone knows that one partner is likely to outlive the other and the closer the relationship, the more one fears the reminder that it must end.

One of the trials that S has faced and overcome in our time together is cancer. She was diagnosed with “Stage 4 non-Hodgkins small B-cell lymphoma”. Stage 4 is as bad as it gets; the next stage is the funeral. Dr H, the doctor in charge of S’s treatment, later told us that he had not expected S to live through the first round of treatments. Her particular type of cancer has a 5% survival rate.

Sometimes I just know things without having any verifiable proof.

I knew that this cancer would not kill S. However, I did not realize how painful staying alive would prove to be for her. The basic concept of chemotherapy is that the cancer is killing you anyway, so the doctors might as well poison both you and the cancer and hope that you are a bit tougher than the cancer. S went through a very, very bad time of it, but the cancer died first. Still, she did not just walk away from chemo and start her life again. Her energy levels are far lower than previously and she has bouts of insomnia. Also, S has frequent leg cramps, she has some problems with walking due to the death of some of the nerves in her legs, her “female organs” have been excised and she has to take a handful of pills every day in order to function. S has sometimes debated with herself, and with me, what she should do if the cancer comes back.

I cannot ask her to go through that Hell again just to keep me happy.

S is regularly monitored. One thing they have been watching very closely is a spot on her lung.

It is growing.

After talking it over with me, S decided to try to continue to live.

Fortunately, chemotherapy is only one of the current options. S has elected to start with radiation therapy and the results are pretty much “so far, so good”. I have a certain guarded optimism about this and VERY STRONGLY hope that chemo will not become the only real alternative to death.

However, I know that I will outlive S. This is backed up by S’s medical history: she has already taken very serious damage from the chemotherapy and another major illness could easily prove fatal.

On the bright side, I do not know by how much I will outlive S. It could be that both of us will die in the same accident and that I would only survive her by a matter of seconds, if that. Given my nature, I find this to be an extremely cheering thought. I have no real fear of death per se, possibly due to the fact that I have only a very abbreviated experience of living. I do fear very much the loss of the life I have with S and strongly prefer actual death to that loss.

Should we divorce or should she die, I don’t know what my emotional state would be. Probably worse than after E died, for our relationship existed more in potential than in reality while S and I have lived together for over fifteen years. Further, I think that once S is gone, I would have not have the moral courage to seek out another mate; sometimes, life is too painful to face.

However, I do not believe that I would kill myself over this. I do believe that I would do as I did after E died, which is to say that I would not really be too concerned about the prospect of death.

I don’t think that I will outlive S by any great period of time unless I find some other reason to continue.

One of the things that I am working on is this blog. In fact, it is the only thing that I really have hope for at the moment. I cannot seem to get the education that I would need to change careers. It is very likely that I am too old to get the retraining that I need in order to compete with recent grads for a programming gig. All of the other things that I might try are currently just not doable due to my poor finances, my bad work record and my basically abnormal personality.

As pathetic as it might seem, writing to even an imaginary audience gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

And I will need a reason to keep going. S is deeply concerned about what will happen to me when she dies. She fears that I will go back to inertia and sloth and spend whatever time I have left doing nothing at all.

She fears that for me, it will be as though she never lived.

I have failed in so many other things in my life that I cannot afford to fail in this. I must keep going, I must accomplish something with what remains of my life, even if it is only in my mind.

I owe S one Hell of a lot more than this, but this seems to be the best that I can do.


Blogger kojak said...

When women damage you, you learn from the experience. It's one of the best ways. Unfortunatly, it does hurt you and that's too bad. But because of the pain it causes you, you will be on the alert next time around. Not to mention, it causes you to mature.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Ronald Cowen said...

Relationships are difficult. No doubt about that! You may want to read "Divorce: What Went Wrong" on my blog, myinsights.typepad.com. Your feedback would be most welcome.

Take care,
Ronald Cowen

11:14 AM  

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