Debate seems to have this transcendent power to lift me up in the darkest times. Suffice it to say times have been pretty dark, so thank goodness I chose to spend a year focusing on debate.
I don’t know what it is about this week in particular. I was trying to explain the rolling waves of awakening to Ariel and having a lot of trouble. This week has felt, in some ways, like the whole crisis has started over again, anew, afresh, and it’s more real and vivid and visceral than ever. It’s hued in this new kind of vibrance where the aches are sharper and the pains more acute, the acupuncture of supposed healing conducted with knives or swords instead of more forgiving needles. Part of it is time, I suppose, which (in a shocking move) does not heal all things, nor even dull or improve them. Sometimes things move sideways. Sometimes they get worse. Those that have told me time will make this all better probably would have put all their money in the stock market ten years ago too. Or a house five years ago.
But today provided its own little counterpoint too, a bulwark against the raging storms that graced the area for most of the evening. For one, I went down for my first scheduled shift volunteering at Elijah’s Promise, starting at their “A Better World Cafe” location that is a few blocks from my new place. It was awkward as heck at first, mostly because I don’t think they get a lot of walk-ins without introduction… it seems the bulk of their volunteers come through a local church or organization that makes an overture on a broad-based level. Or maybe it was just that today I was the new kid, and the thing about being the new kid is that on the day you’re the new kid, you’re the only new kid and everyone else already knows each other. Which I’m well familiar with, so it quickly melted into a viable situation, especially after I proved continually eager and energetic. People got friendly and by the end of it, I’d talked to all the regulars and staff about wanting to become widely involved, at least until I found a job and probably even thereafter. People seemed excited and I walked out of there feeling like I was on the verge of a new little community. Or the slimmest start thereof. Baby steps, right?
I came home and did my dishes and watched a movie and talked to Ariel and felt myself boiling. I wasn’t even angry at Emily by the end of it so much as the whole situation, the waste, the time invested and lost, the years of developing a sense of personhood and time expenditure and perspective on life that is not only lost, but ripped out in such a way as to render me incapable of developing a new one, or caring to. I don’t know how people survive this. I don’t. I don’t see it. Granted, some of the things may affect me disproportionately, like how much I uniquely invested in Emily and how mentally committed to the idea of marriage I have been my whole life. But still. I think I’m still finding new ways to realize what’s really been taken from me and I don’t quite have the capacity to deal. It’s flabbergasting. I think about it and get so I can’t even breathe.
I was in about this state when I looked out the window at the pouring rain and decided I didn’t care whether I got sick, I was walking to debate practice instead of driving. The disproportion of effort is absurd – a five-minute drive versus a half-hour trudge through windy, rainy conditions. But I am committed to trying to walk and that doesn’t just mean in the good times. I also find I care so little about what happens to me in light of what has transpired that it becomes very liberating. I walk without fear. What’s someone going to do to me? Rob me? Rape me? Kill me? I’ve been through the worst. I fear nothing to come in future years. The rest of life has the dull sheen of days rendered unimportant by their larger context.
Debate, though, did its job. It picked me up. It provides a context where I have to be a point-person, I have to check my business at the door and get down to the business of working with a team and making it better. I’m in this weird situation where a lot of these debaters read this blog and know exactly what’s going on with my life, but it’s an elephant we all collectively put aside in the interests of forging something better and brighter for all of us. And it’s hard to talk about 7-year marriages with college-aged kids. It’s hard for me, it’s hard for them. It’s hard to talk about it with almost anyone who hasn’t had one, or lost one, or been through exactly this. The whole fucking thing is just hard.
But not during practice, not at debate. At debate we enter a world where logic makes sense, where the rational arguments hold the day, where opponents are clearly labeled and the goals are straightforward and certain. Debate offers a rubric and model that, however capricious it sometimes seems, puts life writ large to shame. And we all love it. We can revel in being nerdy, in priding ourselves on speaking and knowing and arguing, in trying to improve and make each chosen word more persuasive than the last.
The walk home was energetic – a senior on the team has taken to parking in Highland Park and thus a contingent of people he’s driving home walk with me most nights back. I was almost sad it wasn’t raining still, suited up as I was in gloves and parka and hat. I am ready to defy the rain as I have defied gravity so far. I should be face-down in a ditch somewhere, but I’m still standing somehow. Why, I’m not really sure. The why can come later, if at all. For tonight, I’m still here.
Miles walked today: 3