It’s been an unusual year for me so far, with many changes. It’s strange, I know, that I haven’t written or spoken since January (or technically since June) but there have been circumstances. If you haven’t heard from me, rest assured, almost no one has.
Even now, it feels risky and personal to speak. I don’t want to. But I also don’t want to make a habit of silence; this time has closed my voice, drawn me inward.
So much has happened. It all really started up, this new strand of my life, when in fall of 2014, four of us (and two cats) went to live in Boston for a half-year’s academic sabbatical at MIT. It was everything that I always thought it would be to live as a family in that alive, happening place, and to be surrounded by people walking, thinking and doing. It was especially sweet for me after 24 years of the family being based in St. Louis, a place that was only ever meant to be temporary. Even Bill never meant or wanted to stay. It just … happened.
At a personal level, my work was so sparked by the experience of being at MIT and in Boston that it leapt off of the table and whinnied. I was in a cosmic and happening place, I met new collaborators everywhere I went, and man, did I go everywhere. Each of us in the family reflected our surroundings, and it was lovely, lively.
After the five months of the fall semester, the time was up. I wanted to stay. We could have done it, but there were circumstances, as ever; Liam was finishing high school in summer of 2015, Evan would finish in summer of ’16. Bill and I said, “we can move when Evan fledges”. This didn’t get us back to living as a family in a happening place, but the future was something we could move toward as two human beings in the third phase of life.
We went back to our rhythm of two houses, intersecting lives, monthly visits. Evan turned 18. I got lonelier. I contemplated, as I had for 24, then 25 years, the ideas of acceptance, the practice of waiting for the Future. The Future, as it turns out, does not actually exist. I’ve had some time to think that over.
We have only the moments of the present, strung together like jewels.
If I was waiting, I spent my time well, I think- I worked on my books, I kept my projects hopping, I went back to MIT three times, and I even taught at the January 2016 term, which was a dream come true. I found my own academic home there, I found that I could stay if I wanted to. I felt welcome, valuable, valued in a place that was one of the best in the world. I felt at home.
It really all seemed divine. The timing was perfect; the kids were grown, Bill was of retirement age (but still had lots of juice and a towering stack of chewy Pluto, Europa and other work that he could do anywhere). And so in January I asked him to get ready to move to Boston. Oddly, against all expectation, he refused to leave St. Louis, then or possibly ever.
Leaving my marriage was a really difficult thing to do, especially over something we actually agreed on. How surreal is that? Quite recently, in an equally strange circumstance, he accepted a visiting position at JPL in Pasadena. He can work on All Of The Things, he can teach at CalTech. It’s marvelous, but the timing is hard for us to understand. In a way, we felt (and still feel) played by the play, as if we were performing the process of a kind of separation we were incapable of making without a prop.
I haven’t known how speak of what happened to our marriage without seeming to place the responsibility on Bill for reneging on the deal to move; this isn’t right, because that’s not how I feel, it’s not real. What happened was mysterious, and my desire to be moving in the world was just as much in play as his refusal to move, as was the feel of water moving, inevitability. Just as when we met.
I am convinced, as is Bill, that we played/were played by the Fates. I don’t think about destiny, but I do believe in work, and I think and trust that we have work to do that we could not have done if we had remained bound in that system, in that place. For me, it has already started in a flow that cannot be stopped; ideas stream out of me, they move into a fertile bed of minds in physics, in engineering, in the world of art, we are a sussuration of bees; we are creating work individually and together that we hope will stand over time. Soon, maybe, the wind-fall I’ve been dreaming will stand in the Cambridge skyline. I think so.
I say to Bill, when we ache together over what is lost (and we do) our separation may be as holy as our union. With Bri by our side, stalwart elf, we brought the two boys into the world, we lived a deep luck and love, and we have our family forever in our hearts. My love has no end, it wraps through time in all directions, love begins and ends and never ends in a hot flow through my heart and mind, I feel as close to the center of the Universe as I can stand and survive. I meditate every morning, and when I do, I run film of every person that I love, and I fill those images with as much joy as they can hold, like filling cups until they flow over.
And yes, love is everything, but I’ve had to come to a real grip with the idea that loving someone unconditionally doesn’t mean that you spend the human time-string of your life waiting for them to take actions. The neutral mind, the path of acceptance, these are beautiful ideas, but in practice neutral behavior contributes little more to the Universe than the existence of a tree, or a field of flowers. In fact, the tree does it better. Much better.
Anyway: sometimes the only way a person who is stuck can even take an action is if another person calls game. I understand being a forcing function, but in this context I am surprised to be the spanner in the works.
I’ve struggled somewhat this year professionally as the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork work (which I expected to publish in spring) exploded into arenas that I am still working academically (mathematically, in engineering and in physics) to understand; I am nearly a year behind my publication schedule, yet this is as I always have been and probably always will be. This is my life, this is who I am, this is consistent. I have to be thorough, I need to do my work in the way I do my work.
I take deep breaths, I visualize the whole set of books (I am working on three at once, because I am mad) finished, sparkling, correct. I see them riding out, as they always do, bound and clean and beautiful and into hands, minds.
I’m regretful that I disappeared for so long, but I didn’t know (and I still don’t know) what to say. I’ve really felt (regarding my personal life) that I should wait to speak until the dust settled and until each of us in our family had a chance to breathe and process the changes. And so here we are, here I am.
So much love under the bridge, and more yet to come.
“I wish you joyous and mysterious eruptions
of profound gratification and gratitude.
I wish you fluid insights and revelations that lead
to cathartic integrations on a regular basis.
I wish you the ripening of lucky trends you’ve worked hard to earn,
resulting in the kind of healing that allows your generosity to flow.
I wish you captivating yet relaxing adventures
that enable you to weave together diverse threads of your experience,
inspiring you to feel at home in the world.”