Please teacher, teach me something,
Nice teacher, teach me something.
I'm as awkward as a camel, that's not the worst,
My two feet haven't met yet,
But I'll be teacher's pet yet,
'Cause I'm gonna learn to dance or burst.
Nothing's impossible I have found,
For when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up,
Dust myself off,
Start all over again.
Don't lose your confidence if you slip,
Be grateful for a pleasant trip,
And pick yourself up,
Dust yourself off,
Start all over again.
-- from "Pick Yourself Up"
(Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern)
Swing Time, 1936
Ten days from now will be the third anniversary of the day I moved out of the house I shared with my ex, and the official end of our eight-year relationship. It will mark three years of living in my little English basement with the carpet that I hate and the spacious backyard that I (and the dogs) love. The apartment I'm now anticipating moving on from in the relatively near future as I shop seriously for my first home to own.
In some very personal way, I feel that, coincidentally, this is the end of a three-year period of . . . well, the word that keeps coming to mind is insanity, though that is probably a wee bit dramatic.
I imagine that this description would come as a surprise to people who know me well. I think I have done a pretty good job of "presenting" as someone who has picked himself up, dusted himself off, and started all over again in a level-headed and self-respectful way. And in many ways I have: In the last three years, there have been long stretches of peace and reflection. Reading, exercising, enjoying the music and food and company I love. Getting the job done, as it were.
But there's also been this intermittent . . . insanity. A private thing. Now, for the first time in three years it seems to be subsiding, dissipating, settling into something else.
It doesn't mean I'm finally "over" the relationship -- in some ways, I feel less so than ever: Most of the anger has dissolved, and these days I'm more apt to be brought up short by memories of the things that were right and that I miss. The jokes we shared, the music, the private shorthand, the vacations (this happened when I was in Williamstown last month: He and I had stopped there on our way back from Vermont one summer, the summer of the year I consider our last happy one together). It's still hard to listen to the songs, look at the photo albums (I've taken virtually no pictures in the last three years, let alone put any in albums), even make some of the recipes I used to make for dinner.
And still I feel the insanity is over and that this is the beginning of a new phase. The line is not a sharp one -- it's soft, blurry. But a line.
Work still causes me tremendous stress and self-doubt. I don't know what my next career move will be, or when. I'm still struggling to believe in my ability to pull off this biography project. I don't know how long it will take to find a home to buy. My parents are failing more and more: shrinking, slowing, becoming increasingly dependent -- in my mother's case, more childlike -- both of them groping, in their different ways, for words.
And yet still I feel the insanity is over. I may be wrong -- I'm prepared for that possibility -- but that is how it feels.
Counting last Monday, this was the fourth night in the past week that I've been two-stepping. I can actually talk while dancing now, most of the time -- a sign, the teacher says, that the moves are beginning to settle into "muscle memory."
I can't wait for Friday night.
(Left to right: Not Me and Not Me)