I read a lot. I attribute my empathy in part to reading. Books have given me the chance to see the world through many different eyes. My husband thinks they also influence my mood. He’s right. In which case he would probably prefer that I read all romance novels with lots of sex scenes. I read them occasionally.
Today I’m reading a book about a married couple in which the wife loses herself, is institutionalized, and commits suicide. She is Jewish in the 40s and cannot cope with the fact that she and so many others ignored the signs of the Holocaust and drank and listened to Jazz instead. She is an orphan raised by emotionally distant relatives. She has no roots. Her one root is her husband, who was also raised by emotionally distant parents. He loves her, but panics a little when he feels her tendrils curl around him as she seeks to put down roots. Part of her breakdown is the pain she feels in his pulling away, in watching them become two irreparably separate people. As he restores his sense of self and independence, she is set adrift like the little seeds a child blows apart when they wish on a dandelion gone white.
It’s disturbing to read. I’m not Jewish, but the idea that we can look away from acts of evil is not restricted to the Holocaust. We do it every day. How do we do it? We stay busy. We focus on the feet below us moving forward one step at a time. We feel empathy with other feet, but are responsible only for our own.
People pull apart all the time. Sometimes they come back together. For how long is unknown to all but God. Or some law of physics that I don’t understand. Look at our divorce rate. There are thousands of little tragedies being enacted as I write. America is obsessed with the end of the Katie Holmes/Tom Cruise marriage. Entertainment reporters want to blame it on Scientology or speculate about Tom’s sexuality as the root cause. I’m guessing it’s much easier than that. They pulled part and could no longer find their way back together.
I checked Facebook this morning as part of my waking up ritual and saw that a girl had posted to our oldest son’s wall with a heart. He responded with a smiley face. I don’t know this girl. I’m coming to grips with the fact that I know who my son has been, but I no longer know who he is becoming. I try to have faith that, when he figures it out, he will let us get to know him again. And that we will still want to and be able to overcome the cessura (where did that Latin come from?) that have stepped between those two points.
I have not heard from our oldest daughter in three days. Is the proper analogy fishing? Do I need to leave my line out and be patient? Or is it time to troll a little and see if I get a bite? To make the line dance to put us back in the visual frame? Or just stare at the waves rolling back and forth, water joining and water rolling away, comfortably bounded by the shore?