Update on The Hug

Okay, so I was sort of wrong about Roy. He was disappointed about the hugging and kissing business, yes, but the real reason I had not heard from him was because he was holed up in his rooms, sick as a dog. That had not occurred to me (as usual); it had not even crossed my mind that there might have been other circumstances preventing him from immediately responding to my notes. No, in a trice I jumped to the worst conclusion of all, that he was, in a sense, “dumping me” — though we were hardly an “item” having had but two conversations face to face (still, why was he kissing me then?) — and all because I wasn’t giving him what he wanted…

Anyhow, I do feel better having told him my feelings, and having asserted my right to say no to hugging me, because now he knows that I do not want even that much physical contact, whether or not he had meant it to go any further. I talked to Lee about it as well at the very end of a troubled visit yesterday and he shared with me a little about “most men,” which was (something I didn’t know) that they tend to express their feelings physically, and that they also take rejection of offered embraces personally. So he suggested that Roy might have taken my refusal to hug him as a personal rejection. He suggested too that I write him a short note explaining that it was nothing about Roy himself at all, and telling him how much I enjoyed his conversation and so forth. Maybe I could feel things out and see if there wasn’t more there than I thought…It was, I think, good advice, even if, as it turned out, Roy was sick rather than rejecting me.

By the way, Thank you, Karen Sorensen, for your comment on yesterday’s post. And my congratulations on your lovely website and incredible artwork. I commend and recommend to anyone who sees this note that you check out Karen’s site which is listed in my blogroll.

New Poem: The Rape of the Hug



do you say no to an honest hug

from a good man who likes you and wants

perhaps to love you? Does he

completely understand

how you have spent your life in institutions

and only entered the adult world at age 53?

You still have so much to learn

about being a person outside of a hospital…

Does he – does anyone? – know how dangerous

even loving human contact is

how all contact is rape

even the gentle hugs you have

been tutored to give relatives and friends.

You only withstand them and hand them over

but you do not like them.

Though you know no harm is intended

if done, when he prolongs the hug, stands closer

and turns his head towards yours

you sense the threat

of a kiss you can’t for fear of hurting his feelings

though you feel no feeling

of wanting it


Roy (not his real name, though there is no chance of his seeing this) and I communicated  almost exclusively by means of notes passed under one another’s doors for a long while. Oh, we would pass in the foyer or in the elevator and occasionally exchange greetings or ask how the other was doing, but we never had much in the way of conversation. I was always going somewhere or coming home from seeing Joe or Cy and was much too tired to want to talk. Also it was awkward to have a conversation in such a public place, what with the bored biddies in this place being so nosey and overly interested in what we might say to one another, however harmless.

You have to understand that this building has 250 units for the elderly and disabled, but it is in essence a community, and though some people like me keep to themselves, we nonetheless cannot help but recognize many of the downstairs regulars who sit in the lobby or in the community rooms and watch comers and goers and gossip about nothing all day long. Or gossip and spread rumors and hateful talk. There is a “circle of friends” that I hear is rather in-bred and exclusive with which I have nothing to do, being uninterested. But I know that others feel left out of it, and are in fact excluded. The Circle holds dinners downstairs and each member pays $5 a month for dues but they charge non-members $20 if they want to join them for any one dinner. I cannot imagine why anyone would, but there you have it.

Anyway, to get back to the tale (and I am telling it, mind you, because I am trying to get my mind off much more serious matters, of which I cannot speak at the moment…) Roy had not put any notes under my door for a few months when suddenly one appeared a  couple of weeks ago. I had been feeling extremely troubled, and still am, so the note was welcome, as Roy has a philosophy of life that is very salutary and calming. Even if I cannot share it, that is, even if I find myself unable to trust it or believe that for instance this earth and this life is merely a school where we learn what we need to learn before we shed it and go on to what we need to learn next, even if I cannot believe that, I still like to hear him talk about it (in his notes). I responded and told him honestly how I felt, and what was going on that Lee, my doctor was concerned about as well. Roy responded by appearing at my door with a set of CDs — no, he couldn’t stay but he wanted me to listen to them, he thought they might be helpful — from the Dalai Lama discussing how science, specifically quantum physics and religion, especially TIbetan Buddhism complement one another.

No, perhaps memory doesn’t serve. Perhaps that was the time he did come in, did stay and we talked for about an hour before he had to leave. It was a very enjoyable conversation and I told him so. I told him specifically that he was not at all like Jacques, who came frequently to lecture me and pontificate about Thomas Merton and force his own poetry on me and never let me get a word in edgewise and if I did, gave it no thought or response. Our conversation, I said to Roy, had been an actual sharing, a con-versation in the real sense, not a monologue, and I appreciated that.

When he left he asked me to accompany him to the door, I said, sure, and got up, but felt a slight frisson, suspecting why he had asked. Indeed, I was correct, for at the door he turned and opened his arms for a hug. Not knowing how to refuse, and feeling unable to, I let him hug me, and tried to respond, though it was difficult and he sensed that, saying, “It can’t be that bad…” with a laugh. But he held on a long time, much too long for my comfort. Not that I was comfortable in the first place.

Then he said goodbye with a smile and blew me a kiss and left.

Well, that was that. He continued to sent me notes and one asked me to lend him my book of poetry. I left one in a paper bag at his door, telling him he could keep it. He hung the paper bag back on my door with a note that contained only a big smilie and an exclamation point.

I listened to one CD of the five he had lent me. It was difficult to pay attention, but I eventually managed to do so, washing dishes. Then one evening Roy knocked on my door (he has only a state-issued cell phone with very limited minutes on it) and I let him in. Again we had an enjoyable conversation and again when he left…well, the poem tells that tale.

But this time, well, I had to tell him how I felt. I knew that it would do me and him no good if I simply went along with this and pretended. I could not do it again, and just continue to feel raped. Things would eventually progress to a point where I could not tolerate even pretending…So I sent Roy a note explaining that while he had read both my books and thought therefore that he knew me well, I knew much less about him, and that he needed to go much slower.  I did not enjoy hugging, not yet, and I was not experienced and did not know the ways of the world. I also said that I was used to rejection and would not fall apart if he never came back. I expected rejection from everyone so it would be nothing new. If he rejected me, well, that would also tell me something about him I should know now, before we got too close. I put the note under his door, and waited to see if a small yellow piece of paper, or even several, came back.

Well, I waited all the next day, and the next and the next. But no note came. Yesterday I returned the CDs in the same handled paper bag, and no note came. So I guess I know what Roy was all about, don’t I? It upsets me, as I liked him and thought he was deeper than someone just trying to get into my — well, you know the expression. I hate to think that that was all he was interested in, but maybe that is what motivates all men, after all. I do not know, truly, I do not. I have not had enough experience to know.

It is not that it had to be a platonic erelationship, I was willing to learn about relationships that were more than that, only that it and I needed time to grow. He ought to have known that, having read DIVIDED MINDS. But apparently like the men who forced sex on me in my younger years, he thought that he was different or better or — something. Well, he isn’t, wasn’t, and I learned my lesson, again.

Depression or Sadness?

One day I am up, or part of the day at any rate, and the next day I am down, or the next part of it. I can be cheerful in one moment and crying the next, and it takes little to bring on the tears, but equally little to cheer me up when I am in the mood to be cheered. I feel like a windmill, turning whichever way the winds of my moods blow, and not like the old creaky Dutch ones, but the shiny winged new ones that turn on a dime, shifting as quickly.

Usually what brings on the tears are thoughts of death, but do the thoughts precede the crying and sadness or the sadness precede the blackened thoughts? A good question.  Would I be thinking about the imminent end of the world and my role in it, and thinking of it so often and so desperately were I not already sad? Or does merely the thought of it, and the constant reference to global warming naturally stirs thoughts of it in me,  make me sad? One thing I know is that once I think and am sad, in whatever order those two occur, I start crying, desperately, torrentially, if not sobbing then the tears pouring down my cheeks in silence…

A wise friend suggested I try an exercise in distancing myself from the sadness, by taking a large waterglass and trying to catch my tears when I cry so hard. She says the suffering in the world all comes from a sense of loss, from not understanding that the nature of the world is impermanence, is all things changing…She says that all time is simultaneous, that there is no past or future, except what we choose to focus on. She tells me a lot of things that are difficult to understand.

Right now I am sitting in my living room/bedroom with all the furniture emptied and  crowded into the center around my recliner and TV because the painters are coming to paint on Wednesday and the only person who could help me move things had to come on Saturday. So now I have to live this way for the next few days, with nothing to do but use the computer or watch television, because most of my books, which I cannot read anyway, are packed away in the studio. That is now so full that I couldn’t paint or make jewelry or do art of any sort even if I wanted to. And in any event, I have been physically ill for several days so little appeals to me but lying rather listless in my big chair and stroking my cat! 8D

What a life, what a life…But I lie here thinking about the planet and I think about how I desperately need to find some hope, for myself, for the world, for my thinking about the world and my role in it, in its ending…and I wonder: am I sad or am I depressed? Is there a difference? Is it substantial? And does it matter? It matters that the world is ending, if it is. But is it? I believe it is. But many people, who I think are in  denial and in the dark, think that is nonsense. It matters a great deal if the world is ending, especially if it is my fault. It matters a great deal to me! But most people tell me that it is not my fault, and so far none have said that it is… Most venture only to say that the world will go on, with or without us, and perhaps it is okay if it’s without us…In any event, nobody — well, perhaps one alone of all my friends — seems as desperate and as hopeless as I about the situation, and we are both so hopeless we cannot help each another, only drown in one another’s tears.

Oh how we cling to what is, by that other friend’s definition, impermanent, ever-changing. As Heraclitus said, the world is “an ever-igniting fire, by measures being kindled and by measures going out.”

But is it depression or sadness? I have not felt truly well since I got out of M Hospital in the fall. Oh, I have felt better, and I have felt worse, but I have not felt consistently good, no. And I cannot shake this persistency of ready tears. My psychiatrist did not understand this until the day the tears fell in his office, along with my confession of how hopeless I felt about the world and its imminent demise, how guilty I felt about it. I was surprised at the alacrity with which he pushed an antidepressant on me, since I had not cried so before in his presence, not that I can recall. I thought he might have wanted to discern more of a long-standing pattern….But he scarcely gave me a chance to object. Just “suggested it” then reminded me that our time was up for the week, and he would see me “next week, same day, same time” same channel etc. I was to call him if any problems arose or I needed anything at all in the meantime. But i still had the new prescription to take too, and my visiting nurse would most likely want me to take it as directed. Since I was mostly an obedient patient, and since I wanted to feel better as well, I took it, having no particular objections to that medication. But has it done any good? Oh, I didn’t cry as much for the next few days, and we all thought, Oh, my what a wonderful drug, it has worked so very quickly!

But of course, no drug works that fast. If anything at all, it was a placebo effect. But likely as not, it was simply that other matters intervened and  the end of the world was put on hold as I dealt with matters closer to the facts of everyday life than teleology. Not that the “end of humanity” needs to be the equivalent to the “end of times” but to me if felt that way. Anyhow, I suspect that to those who deal with matters of “teleology,”  the end of times  and the end of humanity may mean much the same thing too, probably. (Who would care about teleo- anything were humans no longer around to think about such things?)

A month later, though, (and the dosage remains minimal, which may or may not be related to this) I still cry torrential tears at thoughts of death, dissolution and the devastation of the planet. I still feel overwhelming sadess upon hearing of anyone’s death, and mere advertising skits can make me tearful if emotional enough in the wrong way…Embarrassing as that is to admit. On the other hand, though, I can still write, I can still paint, and I can still make jewelry and cook and go over to visit Joe and  on and on. I may not always feel like it, but I do it, and that is what is important. And when I do art and write and  cook and so on, I make myself feel better, at least temporarily. So those are antidepressants in and of themselves, yet I could not do them at all, I think, without a certain level of energy above depression.

But as I started this, I go up and I go down, down, down. And maybe that is key, that I am not always depressed, just that I am easily dragged into the slough of despond by thoughts of bleak and utter despair, and whence those come, I do not know. Maybe from reality, cold and hard as a concrete floor, or maybe from imagining the worst. But no one  knows what will happen. The worst is only one of an infinite number of possibilities…