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Reading Deprivation

For much of our time together, #1 Ex and I were close physically and emotionally. Things began to fall apart after a miscarriage and my subsequent deep sadness*. I had trouble understanding why I was treading through the myre of my despondency at work while he was accountable to no one. That last summer at Tanglewood gave us an excuse to retreat to our separate corners of the state, beating our dead horses of self-justification.

We continued blindly with therapy; individual, together, group, but one Monday evening in October, I arrived home to see him nervously standing under the street lamp with his friend Mark, who was always bad news. They had cleared everything that was his out of the apartment, removed my access to our Schwab account, taken the only car we had, and left me with $500. No, I did not want to continue couples therapy! There were a panoply of strong emotions, all mixed up and shooting out of every part of me, the most significant being shock.

Gradually, gradually, this new reality set in. But it took a while before my body was able to process this unexpected present and future, its implications. There were things that helped. My dear friend, despite having two young children, was at my side. The flexeral that had been prescribed for a back pain ensured sleep. And that little voice which often sounds like a drill sergeant but I know is always out to protect me, told me to get up, shower, and go to work, keep moving.

Among the detritus he left was a Barbour motorcycle jacket, a light brown torn up backpack with oldyfashiony pins of ski mountains in Switzerland, the Turkish illustrations we had bought together, and a book meant to help creatives, as he deemed himself, get unblocked. The composer who had given it to him, a sympathetic man, encouraged me to have a go, despite my creative expression extending no further than my wardrobe and movie choices. And so I did, and slowly, day by day, I saw more light and good in a world that had felt overwhelming and uncertain. Almost 30 years later, I still turn to this book that spurs optimism, engagement, excitement in me. Whether I do it alone, in a group or facilitating, working with this book has led me to a profoundly more creative and meaningful life.

This book is more beat up than my feet, and has served me just as well

Friends on each coast recently decided they were ready to do the exercises, so I began again, quickly being warmed by a feeling of strong connection to the rest of the physcial and spiritual world. The three of us do the exercises, check in, are enthusiastic. We are learning, we are becoming clearer, we are enjoying ourselves. They didn't know, but I knew, Chapter 3 was lurking out there, Reading Deprivation. One friend, who does crossword puzzles and word games, wondered if it would be hard to give them up for 7 days. The other relaxes playing Scrabble and can't imagine not playing.

While I never look forward to the week, life in the past has been hectic enough that I've appreciated the break from screens, newspapers, books, using the time to tidy and get rid of things, buy or find new stuff, have old school phone calls with friends, draw, take photographs, go to new places, roam the neighborhood to chat. But this time, there have been a few pretty heavy things going on, leaving my energy depleted and enthusiasm for starting anything new, minimal. So, on the first day without my "pacifier", I was mad, really mad, feeling as though someone had takensometing away from me and that I had had no power in the decision. One of the stages of grief? Maybe.

So there I was that first night, lying on the couch, watching the buds on the sugar maple grow...... I got up, roamed around, had a glass of water, ate some chocolate and went back to the couch. Still annoyed, I got up again, at some level believing that moving around physically would help me avoid complicated and depressing feelings. Ot maybe help find a distraction. Yeah, not happening. Every 15 minutes or so, I checked the time, looking forward to bedtime when I would be put out of my misery. Finally, there was nothing left to do but relent. I put on Brahms 4 and said to myself, "OK feelings, come on at me, what do you have for me?" While it wasn't fun, it wasn't as bad a root canal and I felt better after. That I ended up also listening to the Requiem (yes, it was that kind of night) and maybe doing a little couch conducting tells me it wasn't all bad.

The next days were prophylactically full of plans. But I was exhausted Ilike a sick person but not sick, not quite making it to the ICA, instead sitting outside at Tatte, blankly staring at passersby while eating a monstrous slice of coffee cake in the spring sun. After a few days, things got better, an equilibrium was established and I began to appreciate details I may not have noticed in a different week. For example I noticed a lot of the in shape kids at the gym don't lift much more than me on the machines. I wonder why? They certainly are able.

I'm not sure why a week of deprivation is important, but it is. Perhaps it serves a similar purpose as Ramadan and Yom Kippur do to Muslims and Jews, a reminder of what we have, and a challenge to see what we can live without. It's also a commitment to being with oneself, listening to oneself, making time, making plans. I may be cured of a recent junky TV watching problem and am back to reading hungrily. Currently a re-read of The Unbearable Lightness of Being (not surprisingly in previous post about this book, I conflated details but got the overall vibe right) and Proof of Heaven, a book about a neurosurgeon who was all science until he fell into a coma and met God.

Looking back at the brutal post- Ex#1 era, I have thought so many times of how much less interesting, enjoyable, spontaneous, creative and fun my life would have been had that not happened. As odd as it may seem, I'm profoundly grateful for where it got me.

*I had to take a few weeks off work to gather myself and was mildly entertained when I returned to find out that no one knew I had had a miscarriage, the general rumor was that I had been in jail.


Random update: I have moved the gym tag to the more appropriate water bottle and life is easier and drier. I also have a plan to ask a friend who is very handy to help me with the lights.

Happy update: Our guy has left the ICU and was been deemed by his nurses to be "highly motivated" about getting better. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


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