Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead Revisited

As I slog along in life, it always throws me when just a smell or a place or a person can propel me into a hellish period of my past, one of many temporal nodes decorating life’s stress lines.  At those moments, when my spirit is overtaken by such an unbidden mnemonic, I am returned, violently, to a place of powerlessness.  The memory overwhelms, not just current reality, but erases for the time being all the self-growth, the va-et-vient of character as it is hammered-and-tonged in the forge of life.  It all sounds too precious, I know, but the return to that place of suppression of self, of terror of doing the wrong thing (by someone else’s lights, not yours, never yours and so how do you know if and when you’re doing their “wrong”?) or of  being abused for inscrutable and clearly irrational reasons, paralyzes the soul.  You are back there where there is no escape, no justice, no appeal to reason and all recourse is just a hollow calling out into the dark of the night where no one will hear and no help is about.  All the wisdom you’ve hoarded and transformed into the personal inner resources you call upon to rescue that damaged, deadly memory seem to have gone on the lam somewhere–somewhere, anyway, where you can’t access and apply them.  

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Creature Comforts

I can’t pinpoint when creature comforts became important to me:  maybe it was some time after I stopped teaching…or maybe after my divorce.  I was married to a man–no that’s not it; it had nothing to do with him, preceded him by many years.  In fact, that’s probably why he felt safe enough to approach me.  I had a very good job as Senior Writer at the Cdn Dental Association and lived in a decent townhouse in Manor Park in Ottawa which was as ascetic as a monastery:  few pictures, no plants (I was the serial killer of houseplants at that time, wanted in ten states), few knick-knacks, and home only when it was bedtime.  Working was my god and the workplace was heaven.  No need of anything extraneous, superfluous, extravagant:  I had a good car and relatively nice clothes (I wore a size six then so I looked good in pretty much anything).  Creature comforts depend on who you are–but more importantly, where you live on the planet, what you’re used to, what the culture you’re born into thinks is important, and, as a luxury, what you can afford (or for some people, what you think you can afford).  I have a cousin who spends more money on the quality of the sheets on his bed than I do on the mortgage.  He has to, simply has to, sleep in a bed sublimely comfortable and cushy, no expense spared, money no object.  I did once have a down-filled duvet custom-made only to find it excessively heavy and impossible to maneuver easily into place, waking in the wee hours sweating from dragging this thing hither and thither.  It’s long gone now…  

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