“…expecting a great misfortune”

The misfortunes will come when you are least prepared. It is surprising all the same how many people have reacted to my notes on insomnia and joblessness.  Do I have company?

Someone who read the insomnia and job posting commented about me getting “a Job.” I wonder if the capitalization was intentional. I’m either working or sitting on the ground scraping my boils. It’s a funny pun, sort of.

But there is this: someone, a wonderful friend, gave me a great gift. She has kept my name out of her posting as I have kept my name out of it. This is her posting:


Every time I believe no one does anything except from blatant self-interest, a posting like this throws me off my axis.  Thank God for thrownness.

Maybe it was fortuitous that I found a novel about the 1889 Johnstown flood with the weird title “In sunlight, in a beautiful garden.”  The author excerpts it from Maurice Maeterlinck’s play Pelleas et Melisande, the words of King Arkel to his daughter-in-law Melisande. The play became the libretto for Claude Debussy’s astonishing opera. The King’s words are these:

“I have been watching you; you were there, unconcerned perhaps, but with the strange distraught air of someone forever expecting a great misfortune, in sunlight, in a beautiful garden.”

I recall a line from a wonderful film, Tender Mercies. Upon learning of the death of his daughter, Robert Duvall’s character cries out “Don’t trust happiness! Never did!”  Oh yes…waiting for the disaster that lays in wait.  The terror by night and the arrow that flies by day.  It is so true.

Most of my life I have learned without knowing it to expect great misfortunes.  And they have come to me.  At times I have believed–and I suppose this is a core belief–that I get what I deserve, that joblessness and sleeplessness, the latest torture, are punishments for some pretty terrible things.

Everyone has a terrible thing or two in their Anxiety Closet. If I really think God has selected me for “special handling,” I must have a really inflated sense of my own importance.

But at four AM, when even powerful medications don’t work to bring sleep, it is easy to believe that the sadistic God of my bottom-soul is using the revolt of my own body and mind to kill me.

I am afraid.

Not of being dead but of this hideous equivalent to waterboarding.

I am afraid because the acupuncturist I went to see yesterday told me on the phone this morning that most of her clients run into emotional walls after a half-dozen sessions, but that I hit the wall head-first at full speed at the first session.

See, I met someone yesterday while I had all those needles in me.  I met the Self who has managed my life since I could breathe. He is The Loser. And he has been with me forever.

He has insured that even when I achieved something, e.g., finishing a Ph.D., I would somehow undercut the achievement by not having the necessary patience to wait for the dreamed-of academic job. And he made sure that when an offer came, I would hang up the phone by listening to Everyone Else and their needs instead of my own.

The Loser has made sure that I would trash almost every relationship I had. There’s some song with the line “Losers never win.” Either I would destroy it or I’d pick the precisely right person who would hurt me or who I would hurt.

That’s the Me I met on the table yesterday. He kept me awake all night. I can’t kill him without killing his host, and I will not do that.

I am afraid of penury, of living in a shelter, of going homeless. And I deserve better than that!

I am afraid of having no life except one I would be only too happy to give up.  And I deserve better than that!

I cannot lose The Loser without acknowledging his hold on me. I need him to leave but first I have to look right at him.


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