Thursday, December 23, 2010

Letter from Home

I'm coping, more or less. My back is occasionally sending jolts of dazzling pain to keep me from getting complacent.

The lot we were looking at, with the possibly unlivable house on it, got bought, so we're sad (primarily Martha) and relieved (primarily me) about that. I was having nightmares about trying to get under that house and jack up bits of the foundation, while rats and their fleas nibbled on me, and the floors split open.

Only two more days and this Christmas mania will die down and we'll be able to do things like grocery shopping again. Hooray! I'm very fond of Dickens but at this time of the year I have a hard time forgiving him for his part in launching the Christmas juggernaut. Weeks of international dementia. I know I could make some money by touting gift certificates but I can't stand to participate in the madness.

So we drive around some, looking at dismal little houses in dismal parts of town. It's a blessing that we have the same responses to places.

"What do you think of that one?" A little beige box among little beige boxes.

I'm quiet for a little bit, and then I say, "Well, there's nothing really wrong with it. It's just . . . sad."

"Oh, that's a relief. When you didn't talk right away I thought maybe you liked it."

What we most want is a spacious yard -- overgrown and ratty is fine -- with some mature trees, not necessarily with a view but not at least in dead flat terrain. Any old shack will do: we'd actually like to buy cheap and improve. We're perfectly willing to take something down to the studs and redo it. That would be fun, in fact.

We're going to a counselor and try hard to implement his advice, which is twofold: 1) to keep inquiring about each other's experience and feelings, 2) to refrain from trying to ratchet down each other's anxiety. He's fond of quoting Kierkegaard: "anxiety is the dizziness of freedom." His idea is that rather than trying to soothe ourselves down, we should let our anxiety rise to the next level, where it will actually impel us to do things. And he's right, I think, that we spend an inordinate amount of time protecting each other and assuring each other that everything's just fine as it is. We generally respond to anxiety by trying to make it go away.

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