I’ve had an odd few days. No sickness, no pain, nothing to whine about. But this last Friday I found that inwardly I did not want to move. There was no exhaustion. Yet nothing had my attention, nothing had my heart. In a certain way I was just there without being there.
Saturday it was the same, except that I realized that around the heart there was a kind of floating anxiety. Nothing profound, but there it was. For me, it was unusual. I’m not much taken with anxiety. Like I told one of my doctors, I think I’m too shallow to have worried much about the cancer. But Saturday I understood that I was in a state of some kind of depression. The realization surprised me. I was depressed, and I felt anxious. That isn’t me. And I was largely closed down. Standing alone, apart from my wife, my daughter, the grand kids. I was reading Boswell’s Clap, but that didn’t help.
Sunday morning I decided to tell Irene what I was feeling, anxious and depressed. She had already noticed that I was “bien lelo,” or maybe “out of it.” So Sunday morning I would pick her up at her church down the coast at Las Gaviotas and while we drove back to town I would tell her. It would be the first time in some 35 years that I would ever have told her anything like it.
When she got in the car and strapped Lil Brad in the car seat in back and we were driving north I could not bring myself to say anything. After awhile she said in Spanish, “Gordo, estas bien lelo.” I agreed, but I didn’t say anything. I had nothing to say. We drove to town and had lunch in the big, square, outdoor food court where there are clowns and Brad can play. While we were there at our table the subject of her doctor’s appointment came up. She feels something in the right breast that is not right. She’s been in remission from breast cancer for 12 years, but when she mentioned the mammogram I felt the anxiety come up. It came up very strong.
That was two days ago. Things are more or less the same. My state of being, if I can put it that way, appears to be passing through some kind of phase. I am going to suppose, I don’t know what to think, that it has to do primarily with the work. I have invested a lot of money over the last three months which has provided no new income. A good part of the expenditure was for Internet outreach. I see now that I probably chose to test the two most inappropriate lists available for such testing. I chose them as a revisionist, rather than as a marketer/businessman.
I have not talked about this stuff with anyone. Until now. I already feel a little better. Get it off your chest, Brad. I think maybe getting it off the chest helps me stay good no matter what’s going down. Usually. That’s part of it. The other part is that I don’t think about things over much. I just go ahead, do this, do that. There’s no end to the thinking. Consider the holes in or not in the roof of Krema II. Twenty-five years on and we can still talk about the holes in the roof of Krema II. With regard to life, the issue with thinking is that it’s always from yesterday, a moment ago. From memory. No thinking without memory, yet memory is never there in the moment. When anxiety passes over the heart it makes its move without asking permission, there is a moment of awareness without thought, and then it’s time for memory to kick in.
I wrote the above two nights ago without finishing it. I don’t recall now where I was taking it. But that was two nights ago. Yesterday the Harvard story broke. I was busy. Today the story was building. CNN got in touch, a reporter from The Boston Free Press, some students. Busy. Sometime during the day I realized that there was no anxiety, no depression. I’m pleasantly distracted with the work. A life of distraction. At this stage of my life, maybe that’s the ticket. I suppose that has always been the ticket. Do something. Do this, do that. It gives you the impression you’re alive.
Still reading in Boswell’s Clap. Turns out I’m not so interested in the medical analyses of literary men’s afflictions as I had expected to be. I do like the biographical outlines of the characters analyzed. At the same time it’s interesting to find how uninteresting is the madness of Collins, Cowper, and Smart as exhibited in their poetry. I can’t bring myself to even begin the chapter on the neuropathology and psychopathology of Swinbourne’s masochism.
Ober does tell a charming anecdote about Chekhov, who died of tuberculosis.
“Chekhov died in Germany in 1904. When his doctor wanted to apply an ice bag to his chest, he looked up and said: ‘One does not put ice upon an empty heart.’ He then asked for a glass of champagne, drank it, and died. His body was returned to Moscow in a train marked ‘Oysters.’”