Susan's Blog

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Never Met A Phor I Didn’t Like

I’m all out of faith
This is how I feel.

–Natalie Imbruglia

To all of you who think of my life as a roller coaster ride: welcome to Lightning Loops. (Or possibly, Free Fall, the ride that is so horrible they don’t even bother to disguise it as a giant spider or a Tower of Terror. It is just a metal structure with a chair that rises and rises until you hear this BUZZ and the chair is released and you fall downward.) I am feeling so brittle today, like I could break any second, just held together with scotch tape and coffee. The plastic sheen of the blue sky makes me squint and want to take refuge in yet another cup of highly sweetened Peet’s.

What started it? A shaky Thanksgiving. A disappointing long weekend. An uncertain future. The pervasive, snappish cold that tells me that it is absolutely true that winter is right around the corner, even though Indian summer was only last week. Why? Why do I feel this way? When all is fairly well within my combustible nuclear family? Taking the emotional temperature of the four of them, I find that they are all doing really well right now, so WTF is my problem?

Was it the New Yorker’s review of — of all things — War and Peace, the latest translation? Why, you might ask, would that send me into a tailspin? Because it makes me feel like a failure. It reminds me of my lost youth, of the path not taken, or in my case, the path barred to me by Penn and Harvard grad school admissions. You see, way back when, I thought I was going to get my PhD in Russian Intellectual History of the 19th Century, at either Penn (where I got my Master’s in the above) or Harvard, because we were destined for Boston after 5 long years in Philadelphia. But I was not accepted into either program; I probably was not serious enough a student. I did not read 18th century whaling diaries on my vacations at Cape Cod. I did not subscribe to any historical journals. I had not mastered statistics. I did not want to visit the Soviet Union, I told my advisor. I wanted to visit Russia. 19th Century. I wanted to wear those clothes, bustle and all. I wanted to ride in my coach and play Whist, whatever that was, dance at the Rostovs’ ball and decide between suitors. Seriously, all I really wanted to do was figure out why the Russian Enlightened thinkers thought the way they did. I wanted to immerse in it, go back in a time machine. Well, that was just too emotional for those hardheaded academics, so they turned me down. Anyway, so I just came to Boston figuring I’d do something else. And — voila! I did. Oh, boy, did I.

But I still wonder at what I have not done with my life. I read that terrific and interesting New Yorker review and I could not help reading various clever paragraphs to poor pre-coffee Ned. I felt such longing, to steep myself in that academic world of pondering Tolstoy’s every word and then doing the research to prove this or that completely irrelevant but beautiful point.

I am both blessed and cursed with having the time to do what I want with my life. I understand that this is a wonderful, lucky thing, but it certainly brings with it its own problems. I feel utterly compelled to find The Right Thing to do with myself and then Do It. I am longing for a book idea; at the same time I want to start a dance studio for disabled girls. At the same time, I have a partially-filled-out job application to Anthropologie; at the same time I am looking up grad school programs in special needs education but feeling like, Jeebus Cripes I should be teaching these classes, not taking them! My arrogance and impatience get in my way as much as my intertia and depression.

A lot of people have told me that I should give myself a break and realize that I have a hard life. They mean Nat, of course. Nat is an easy target, poor Sweet Guy. But they are so wrong. I know that Nat is not what makes my life its most difficult; I am. I trip over my own neuroses like tree roots in the path. Nat, in fact, has given me a little respite from all that, as well as a chance to strike out on a whole new path through the swamp. Pardon my metaphor, but I am really trying to figure shit out and I am currently feeling a bit lost in the woods.


“But I still wonder at what I have not done with my life.”

You know, you’ve done a lot with your life already, and more to come.

Keep plugging away. The dance studio is a pretty good idea though. An untapped niche market.

— added by Someone Said on Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 10:18 am

Another thought would be to enroll is a PhD program NOW. What the hell not? It’s not like there is a PhD program in literature anywhere that wouldn’t take a published author.

Use what you got baby and dance like this is your last dance!

— added by Andrew on Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 11:24 am

Sue, I send you this link to help you break out of today’s funk:

Agreed, this is the WEEKEND THAT HAS GONE ON FOREVER. And I’m pregnant and shouldn’t even be drinking coffee, which only leaves me the “scotch tape”, huh? Hang in there.
— Cathy in CT

— added by Anonymous on Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 11:38 am

Maybe also admit diabled boys to your studio (presuming it would offer styles other bellydancing)?

— added by Anonymous on Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 7:38 pm

No easy answers. All I can say is that my dad died at 40 after suffering from cancer for 10 years. He really, really wanted another day. He was beautiful, brilliant, talented … Witnessing that longing really had an impact on me.

Some days I feel just as you do… That sense of uncertainty … unrest. All I can say is treasure the gift of life. When you feel lost keep putting one foot in front of the other. Breathe. Your path will find you.

— added by autismville on Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 7:58 pm

I think you just need to “make peace” with the unrest- those feelings you have. Frankly, you have done quite a lot and you are young. So figuring out what you want to do, then doing it- that will never be enough. You will always wonder what you are *not* doing, until you can stop wondering that.
ps. I do the same thing.

— added by kristine on Monday, November 26, 2007 at 1:47 am

I think we all go through this funk from time to time.

I re-read the Chronicles of Narnia this year, and something the Lion said has really stuck with me: that no one is allowed to know what Might Have Been.

And I wondered and wondered, why? Why, if the God character in these books is able to look into and see that past, present, and future all as a whole, could He not reveal what would have or could have been?

To me, it’s still a mystery. But I am certain that I could go (even more) crazy by imagining and thinking and longing for the great things that could have come out of choices I didn’t make.

And I am convinced that this life is all about what we do FOR REAL, the way we live now, the concrete decisions we make that affect our lives and the people around us.

Okay, that’s today’s homily. Go get ’em tigress!

— added by Gloriana Beausoleil on Monday, November 26, 2007 at 12:42 pm

Oh fellow Libran, what is it about the good times that makes us long for what’s on the other sied of the fence? Or the things we haven’t done or should have done or, or, or…

I can so relate to this right now. you will find your answers when you least expect them. Trite but oh so true.

The elements that sound like they are battling for top honors seem to be: education (both yours and others’), movement/dance, and special needs/disabilities.

Have you seen this story about the ballet program “Dancing Dreams?”

— added by Niksmom on Monday, November 26, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Hi, Susan. As an autism dad and holder of a PhD in literature (and, yes, I was a Russian minor in college), I would like to report how frequently I wish I were doing something–anything–else. One day I will bellydance right into my classroom just to shake things up, make myself believe in possibility–what my son, DJ, calls “the fresh start awaiting.”

Cheers to you, Susan, and your vitality and honesty and verve.

–Ralph Savarese

— added by Anonymous on Monday, November 26, 2007 at 6:57 pm

WOW – you wonder if you haven’t accomplished enough in your life? I look at your life and what you’ve accomplished and wonder if I’m doing enough in MY life. I mean, you write articles, books, appear on NPR. You’ve had a huge impact I’m sure on the whole Autism arena, with all these other parents that read your blog. You’re an amazing person who is always looking out for how you can help more people.

I am not kidding when I have compared what I have done with my life so far with yours (after hearing you speak on NPR), and I wondered if I would ever contribute anything as significant and meaningful as the contributions you have made to this world.

— added by Shannon Brooke Davis on Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 8:52 am