I am more interested, now, in why I persisted for so long with something so upsetting and demeaning. Why did I allow myself to behave so badly and thus to be so crushed? This thing occupied me, almost exclusively, for almost a decade. What did I gain from it? Because I must have gained something
That question seems to be its own answer. Of course, once your self-image has been wrecked, along with the relationships it’s bound up in, you lack the confidence to forge out on your own. You cling to the wreckage, because you fear you’ll drown in the open sea: you now know how tempest-tossed it can be, how flawed you are.
But the problem also pre-occupied me. It passed the time. It gave me purpose, something to think about. Lulu was excellent company (sympatico) and for ten years I was never at a loss, as I had been when I got together with Alice; I was never bored. Not really. Not like it had afflicted me when I was 14, growing up in semi-rural Ireland with NOTHING TO DO! I always had a target to strive for, a strategy to devise, something to dream about.
Maybe that’s all anyone ever does, beyond the immediate struggle for survival. All hobbies, obsessions, ambitions, all daydreams – they all just pass the time.
After puberty, the pursuit of love, sexually defined and demonstrated, but still romantic, monogamous, offered some sense of purpose. Then there was the early discovery (it didn’t feel like a decision) that I was going to be a poet. This was incredibly useful in my ongoing struggle against oppressive pointlessness, because at any moment, I could name my formless dissatisfaction and pursue a solution to it: I ought to be writing; I ought to be writing more; I ought to be writing better.
The more unproductive I was, the more unrequited my crushes, the more relief I gained from the ennui.
Because I sensed it, in the back of my mind, the infinite space beneath all things. And, if I didn’t fear it, exactly, I disliked it. I wanted to move away from it.
Perhaps, then, when I’d achieved a stable relationship, children, a putatively rewarding job, when I could stop and take stock, had moved out of Lulu’s sphere, admitted that I was never going to be a poet, then the endless depth threatened, once again, to open before me. And I took to exercise and restricted eating to close myself away from it: something to busy myself with.
I’m only speculating. It’s a theory, but hunger and exhaustion do grant you the most absorbing, all consuming, proximal goals: the next meal, the next doze. I still haven’t felt bored for years. So ingrained has my boredom-avoidance become, that I’d completely forgotten that was what I was doing, until I was confronted by the ghastly prospect of recovery, and its subsequent return.