I have no right to complain, I know I have it good. It's just that I do like things clean & neat & fresh & bright & orderly... instead, here it's this constant makeshift, make-do, half-measures, sort-ofs, incompletes. And I'm Lady of the Manor, while D toils. Wonderful.
Near the beginning of when D & I met and started seeing each other - we fell in together very fast - he bought me, for my birthday I think, a lovely tall gray ceramic cylindrical vase. I loved the present, I thought he had chosen it beautifully, I love flowers, all sorts of blossoms looked wonderful in it. I cherished it for many years, and it always had a prominent spot among our furnishings - on Sackett Street, on the left hand side of the gray marble fireplace mantle; up here, atop a low burnished wood bookcase, filled not with fresh flowers, but with artificial (but nicely made) silk cosmos tangles bought on sale from Pottery Barn - I'm not big on artificial, but these were quite nice, in a problemsolving way - they filled up a corner with a nice display, and I didn't have to worry about replacing them all the time, or splashing water on wood.
This was a while ago now, maybe a year or more, but I continue now & then to think of it, and it still bothers me. D had presented me with this gift, twenty-five years ago now, and last year sometime, in a pique of rage, he deliberately took the vase and smashed it. I found the jagged ruined pieces on the floor the following morning. Which just shocked me, that he would have done such a thing. I was very angry, needless to say. He said that he had given me the vase and so it was his to smash. And I said no it wasn't, it was my vase, it belonged to me, and he had no right. (Not to mention all other sorts of shades of nuance, such as - why are we smashing things, in general?) What bothers me too, is that I've since read a mention of Freud having written (I should look up the quote but don't have the energy right now) that to smash a vase is to symbolically smash your wife's head. Which was obviously jarring when I came across that reference, it reverberated with me, and as unverifiable as Freud is (an argument against him as I recall from a Philosophy of Mind class in college) - that's exactly what it had felt like to me when D smashed that particular object. He chose it carefully, both times - first when he gave it to me - it had symbolic import then, perhaps, that I can't say I had intuited or absorbed - and when he chose to then take it away - that meant something too.
Things have calmed down considerably in the last year, we just cohabit. It's not the worst situation, but it doesn't feel tenable to me, nor entirely fair, but I don't know what to do about it. And he doesn't either, so we just go about the dailiness at this point. It's not the worst.
He gives me space, he works & tries to keep up with the bills (modest as our lifestyle is, and house & car paid for). I put many if not most of the meals on the table, do laundry, keep things tidy, fetch the mail. I'm the one who insists on fresh carpeting - that's not coming away from its tacks in the risers - that won't be a trip hazard for guests.
I'm really sorry all this happened. I feel a sense, all these years later - we'll have been married 25 years come February, that even though I was very happy with him for about the first 20 years, that in fact I had made a colossal mistake, an error of judgment perhaps, or perhaps he had quite successfully hidden his nature from me, or it was something he could quite easily do as long as I was earning money, and he didn't feel the pressure of any real responsibility. I have always felt this pressure to try to make something of myself (however unlikely it may look to others from the outside, these days anyway), with intermittent successes over the years, but not over the long haul. It's funny, at Swoon the other day when I took myself out to lunch there were a couple of guys, one of them around my age, the other a little older - brothers perhaps, they seemed to be catching up with each other. The younger one mentioned something about a woman academician of his acquaintance, who (in what I could catch of what he said) after a long illustrious career with hardwon achievements pretty much up & quit, before - as this guy put it - she could "reap the harvest" of all her hard work. The guy seemed nice actually, very empathic, saying that he recognized that she had simply gotten tired. I have never had that sense of putting in the work... and then somehow the moment coming that I reap the rewards. Unless that very moment is now - that, frankly because I have no idea what else to do with myself - so this bit of writing that I do - I've seized that.
I know that it comes more easily to a certain kind of man, I can think of several, including a former boss of mine in the city, who absolutely knew how to play the game, smoothly navigating himself through everything, serene, unruffled, "village elder," plaudited. (Is that the word I mean?)
I don't know - different degrees. There's playing the game, & coasting, and there's applying yourself. D is applying himself now, I see that, it's a bit belated, and I wish - I don't know - that there were something more affirmative at some point - at any point that I ever knew him - about his applying himself.
You know, perhaps I'm thinking about this stuff too in light of a quote by Vladimir Nabokov that I just read in the Malcolm. It's not the first time I've read this passage, but I'll include it here, I relate to it very much - and my dearest, perhaps you do too, or recognize something - both in yourself, and in me.
"[The Chekhov hero] - a queer and pathetic creature that is little known abroad and cannot exist in the Russia of the Soviets... combine[s] the deepest human decency of which man is capable with an almost ridiculous inability to put his ideals and principles into action... Knowing exactly what is good, what is worthwhile living for, but at the same time sinking lower and lower in the mud of a humdrum existence, unhappy in love, hopelessly inefficient in everything -- a good man who cannot make good... Blessed be the country that could produce that particular type of man... [The] mere fact of such men having lived and probably still living somewhere somehow in the ruthless and sordid Russia of today is a promise of better things to come for the world at large - for perhaps the most admirable among the admirable laws of Nature is the survival of the weakest."