Thursday, March 16, 2017
SOMETIMES IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS
I'm not so young anymore, I'm alone and my marriage was in many ways a tragedy that will always break my heart. It's often very perplexing and upsetting to try to live with and understand what was wrong with my husband. I can't even think of his name the same way as I used to. Tom. How I loved that name, so simple, so straightforward, so manly. But now that name seems to have fallen down on itself and become smudged and indistinct.
Then, when I'm feeling low, I'll remember some little thing he did, like set up the coffee machine for me the night before so all I had to do was press the button for my coffee before I left for work. He always left a love letter full of encouragement and telling me how much he loved me. It would be written on oversize legal yellow paper and signed with long rows of x's for kisses and o's for hugs.
And that memory means so much, now. Not that I am deceived anymore about what this meant. I'm sure there was a heaping helping of guilt in this letter. He had spent the night smoking and drinking by himself, festering in his unhappiness and frustration. But I know that those letters came from his heart. It means so much to have a tangible memory that there were moments when his heart did turn toward me, when he longed for us to be happy.
Another great help to keeping my spirits up is seeing that others have suffered from similar problems. I recently watched a production of "The Winter's Tale" by Shakespeare, solely because I am taking the time to get to know old Will better. Strangely enough, "The Winter's Tale" described almost exactly the problem that beset my husband. Fascinating and very reassuring to see in a classical and widely performed play the very same type of mental aberration that my husband suffered from.
"The Winter's Tale" is a tragic romance and a tale. It seems to me that romantic stories are often psychologically symbolic rather than purely stories of individual characters interacting. And when the word tale is involved, it is almost certain to be the story of one person's psychological dilemma. Fantastic things can happen in the world of a tale, like a woman coming back from the dead. That's because we can kill people and turn them to stone in our minds. So these stories are about how we perceive things in our minds. When someone comes back from the dead, it's a clue that we aren't talking about the real world.
The similarity to my marriage is that the hero in this story, King Leontes, suddenly is gripped by a freakish and groundless jealousy in which he believes his wife and his best friend have committed adultery. Though there is no evidence of adultery at all, and no one in the King's court believes the charge, he orders his wife tried and killed, declaring their new baby a bastard.
His wife's transgressions are all in his mind, but because he is king, as we all are of our own worlds, no one can stop him from his grave injustice.
In my own case, my husband's sudden freakish running away from his marriage, even after he was married, is so similar to the king in "The Winter's Tale" that I felt very reassured in my understanding and acceptance of my tragic marriage. No explanation is given as to why he suddenly believes his wife to have betrayed him. Eventually, he realizes the great wrong he has done and miraculously his wife is brought back to life, from being a statue, or perhaps she's just been hiding for sixteen years.
This tale is also similar to the Greek myth of Alcestis, where a king earns a wife only with the help of the Gods, that is, by cheating. He forgets to give thanks to Artemis, so on his wedding night, he finds his bed full of snakes. You don't have to be Freud to know that a bed full of snakes indicates a sexual problem. He should die from the snakes, but is saved by another God for whom he has done a favor.
However, someone must die in his place. His elderly parents refuse, so his wife, Alcestis, goes to the underworld in his place. It's interesting that as a result of losing her, which he soon learns to regret very greatly, he rejects his parents as selfish, because they are old and won't die for him. It seems that a man must stand up to his parents, not necessarily in real life, but to the vestiges of their upbringing that still have sway over who he is. He must reject the selfish acts of his parents and their damaging influence, if he is to be able to properly love a woman.
Of course, the great Herakles arrives. He is an old friend of the king's and wrestles Alcestis from the grip of death, bringing her back to her king for a happy ending. Tales, fairy tales and romances are the stories of our hidden mental battles as we strive to understand ourselves and to be happy, balanced individuals. Usually, no matter if there is a hero or a heroine, tales are applicable to both sexes.
My own tale didn't have a happy ending.... in this life. But I have faith. Those coffee letters give me hope that my king is waiting for me somewhere.