"Job, I want to continue with some thioughts I voiced yesterday regarding how I react when loss comes my way. As I mentioned, I become inconsolable, especially if it is something upon which I have set my heart. Ultimately I know that the answer is not to set my heart upon things, Job. That will be the sad but true reality, but I need to develop a few thoughts to show you how I get there.
The first point is that in deep loss I become inaccessible to people. People may try to console (though few do, because few if any are aware of my distress), but their words bounce off me like cow pee off flat stones in Kansas. I don't want their words; I don't want their sentiments; I don't want their support or their hugs or their good wishes. I don't want these because I have become so sunk into my own distress that I know that the only thing that will matter is the reversal of the thing that caused the distress--but since there is no way to reverse it, I become stuck and no one can touch me. Thus, I become less interested in talking to people, in entering into their world, in noticing the world around me, in doing anything else but trying to stanch the unstanchable flow of my heart.
Second, if someone does try to console, I take it as a hostile sign. I interpret it to mean that they really don't understand the toll that loss takes on me, and because they don't understand such a basic point, I should despise or ignore them. They think that because in earlier instances and with other people if they say consoling words or do comforting gestures, that the person will be "helped" or "healed." But it doesn't work that way with me. Just the opposite.
Third, when I enter deeply into my funk, I do not believe that I will ever come out of it. I believe it is so deep and pervasive, so intrusive and all-controlling that it is something that will not ever end. I envision it as like a knife that has cut away a vital part of me; no longer will I be able to function "whole." I will forever have a leg three inches shorter than the other, or only one arm, or one eye, or something like that. It becomes the most oppressive and dominating reality of my life. Oh, I will be able to go about my routine, and even be able to "do well" in aspects of my routine, such as teaching or meeting with students, but inside I am a vacant person, unable to know how to move on and unwilling to accept anything that anyone says or does as important or at all contributing to restoring me.
Fourth, I have to resolve never to get myself in another situation where I might "lose" again. I do so because the toll that loss takes on me, when I have become invested in something, is so severe that I believe that if I lose again it might have dramatic consequences on me--perhaps on my health, even, which I strenously want to preserve. Thus, I simply cannot get myself in situations where I might suffer some kind of emotional let-down if it doesn't work out as planned or hoped. Some might brilliantly suggest that it might be better if I learned to deal with loss as a part of living, but my response to them is why aren't they taking Sanskrit in the morning, Hebrew in the afternoon and then gemology in the evenings and writing 4 mini-essays a day? Well, of course they will think that is irrelevant, but maybe that is what I am trying to say to them about their comments. If they look at me in a way as if to say, "Bill, what you are saying so obviously makes no sense," I look at them with the same quizzical look and say, "Well, your objection to what I say is completely incomprehensible to me." The result HAS to be a breaking off of the relationship because in every subsequent encounter with them I will ask how the Sanskrit is going and will continue to bug and needle them until they have to let me go.
For, if there is one thing I have learned, Job, is that loss not simply hurts me, but it shames and humiliates me, it makes me unable, unwilling and uninterested in entering into any human phenomenon other than those generated by my own heart. So, the only way I can survive is not to allow loss to happen. Or, to put it differently, when the loss happens, have so little invested in the thing that was taken away that I can face whatever happens with calm. Not necessarily the imperturbability of the Stoic, but maybe it is. Maybe the Stoics developed that doctrine (and which one of them did?) because they (or he) just couldn't endure loss, and so he had to relativize all human losses so that he wouldn't be so thrown off by any one of them that came. Well, I need to do that. But that means more tentativeness in human relationships. It means that I can be friendly and even seemingly intimate, but I can never become attached to another person, never let that other person be part of my life. With respect to ambitions and plans, too, I can never become identified with any employment goal or institution, never become fully wed to my writing, never become tied into my own thoughts, never be attached to anything that I do. I have enough fodder now in my life to be able to speak eloquently about loss and restoration for the rest of my life; why experience any more of life to refine the concepts? They have already been burnished to a rare bronze.
Should I tell this to anyone? Should I enter into relationships with women without letting them know that I will never become attached to them? Should I let them become attached to me, as they often do, for the fun of it, before extracting myself from their clutches? Or, should I just continue to create, putting out this veritable fireworks of the soul, this encyclopedia of learning, and ignore or not seek that kind of closeness? I think I will seek out some people because there are parts of relationships I enjoy, but I can't invest much of myself into these things.
Then again, Job, I might be so screwed up that nothing that I have said will be relevant to how I live life tomorrow. That is, what I have just said might simply not be true. Join the confusion, as you go back for a double grande latte or whatever they are serving today at our restaurant, Job.