All original images and text are copyright 2008-2018 Liz Sweibel


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Scale Shifts.

The Internet has opened life in countless ways, while closing it off in others and virtually ruining it with the 2016 election and all the meanness, selfishness, and ignorance made public during and since.  I have moments of wishing it had never opened.  I also see it - this blog and my Web site especially - as the site of the memoir I am unlikely otherwise to write.  It is a horrific time in the world, and I want to mark my tiny place in it in words and pictures.

We (humans) are at risk, and whatever good this country has been aiming for is being callously eclipsed or sabotaged by the cruel dysfunction of politicians and corporate overlords.  Famine, oppression, chemical weapons, terrorism ... The fear-fueled decisions - and some outright insanity - of the power-grabbers are hurtling the country and world to vicious, unimaginable (to me) new lows.  I was born in 1957.  The relative security I have assumed as normal is infinitely more fragile and ill-gotten than my younger self conceived, and now that self - my self - is stupidly astounded and ashamed at my unseen privilege.  I have learned much about Otherness in Facebook conversations.

From May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude, starting with a quote from Robert Coles (in a 1970 New Yorker article):  "'Not everyone can or will ... give his specific fears and desires a chance to be of universal significance.' To do this takes a curious combination of humility, excruciating honesty, and (there's the rub) a sense of destiny or of identity.  One must believe that private dilemmas are, if deeply examined, universal, and so, if expressed, have a human value beyond the private, and one must also believe in the vehicle for expressing them."

I wrote the post below almost a week ago, and this scale shift helps validate the attempt at introspection:

On Thursday evening I hurt someone I love; I was insensitive with my words.  I learned this when I got home, and felt my insides go liquid.  I don't recall my exact words; I was oblivious to their potential to insult.

I arrived at the gathering tired and still slightly irritated from the teaching week (and semester, and year), and was anxious to appear in better spirits than I felt.  It doesn't work very well; the anxiety is more of an obstacle - a danger, even - than a low mood.  Out of it comes my uneasiest behavior: spews of words.

My apology - sent that night - was accepted early the next morning, and my chest and shoulder muscles exhaled. Still I slept all day into the night, except for one errand and PBS from seven to nine.  My physical energy was consumed by the emotion, and the lethargy added worry that the emotion would lodge itself.  Today feels much better, and I hope I learned something.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Anticipatory Grief.

Leading up to Big Emotional Events, I'm full-on anxious and a tad obsessive; on FB, I described myself as "howling" in the days leading up to my sixtieth birthday.  I also knew that I would be back to (ab)normal on the actual date and thereafter, and I was and am. There is a history to this.

In 1975 my father had a massive heart attack; he was forty-six; I was a sophomore at the University of Florida.  We had gone to Crescent Beach for the day, my first college beach trip.  The phone was ringing when we got back to the dorm, and my mother told me to come home.  I don't know how I traveled from Gainesville to Miami Beach the next day; I do remember the evening before, sitting at friends' apartment, paralyzed and still and silent.

I also remember seeing Dad at Mt. Sinai the next day.  This bull of a man - the only reason he survived, I'm convinced - was tied to a thousand ICU machines but conscious.  We could only stay a minute.

Dad managed to stay alive for five years, slowly returning to a four-day workweek at his factory, Martin Wire Company.  My brother was diagnosed with dyslexia during this time, and the family was in enough upper-middle-class Jewish distress that we were referred to a psychiatrist, Warren Schlanger.  The therapy was prompted to support my brother, but he didn't engage; the rest of us clamored for airtime and eventually began some one-on-one relationships with the doctor, me included.

My mother was so touched to see Dr. Schlanger's name in the guest book at my father's memorial in 1980.  And she must have seen the doctor after the death, because she later told me that his perception was that my family began grieving Dad at the first heart attack.  Anticipatory grief.

This week I realized that my mental picture of Dr. Schlanger has merged with that of a psychiatrist I saw in the late 80s in Cambridge, Mass., Robert Okin, who I largely credit with saving my life by taking it (me) apart.

At 7.48 am today, I did a google search for Dr. Schlanger and he is eighty-two and in Palm Beach.  I need to think about that.