Upstream or Down

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Note to My Subscribers

It has recently come to my attention that between the end of this blog’s original run, and my revival of it last October  under a new name, WordPress stopped sending out email notices  for each new post.  Because of your previous interest, I have resubscribed you so that you should now receive notice.  Of course, you are free to unsubscribe yourself.

If you would like to catch up, all the new posts are available in the archives. You can find the first here:  It explains my intent in restarting the blog with our pen and ink correspondence forty years ago before we lived together.  This current post is toward the end of that correspondence at a time when I had briefly separated from my marital home.


Upstream or Down

[Back home after my aborted separation.   We returned to our pattern of weekly meetings and letter writing, but now in a different, even more intense, context.  We both, without explicitly acknowledging it, recognized that our respective domestic situations are on the brink of dissolving.]

Thursday night


I know I’m going to talk to you tomorrow, but I need to feel close to you now, and I am both full of emotion and at the same time drained.

Your letter raised questions I had asked myself, but I didn’t really have time to internalize them.

There was no blowup last night, but it happened this morning–more violence.  Then a trip to the lawyer who assured me that divorced men don’t starve in NY State any more.  Before that, but after the AM violence a heart to heart with my kids.  After the lawyer, I read your letter–several times, but the the mood  in the house was sullen hostility waiting to erupt, and I did a couple of hours ago over a mightily trivial circumstance as always [that produced a physical confrontation]….I defended myself as gently as possible and stayed calm.  Mentioned the desirability of consulting lawyers–all leading to a melting into teary sadness, perhaps no longer, or at that moment, desperate, but rending nonetheless.

And so it sits, or rather crawls toward some resolution, and I think of you more and more, and the questions you raise which do not have immediate answers, but my feelings for you are a kind of answer, or at least a context and a constant in the middle of the fury.  We’re both suffering a lot of shit; perhaps we knew this would happen, but you never taste the full experience until you’re there, and we are, to be sure, there.

I dream, too, as you describe, knowing dreams rarely survive the present reality when it arrives, but maybe they shape that reality giving it, if not the imagined, at least a reasonable facsimile of the taste and colors of the idea–and for me that imagined taste is sweet and the colors warm.  More than that I can’t say.

I want to talk to you tomorrow.

Saturday night-late

Half watching the French Connection, my reason for pushing into  the early hours of the morning, but the true reason a severe case of Carol deprivation, all the more intense for the writhing of the web today.  Symptoms: a compelling need to be with you, if only in this form; tightly drawn lips relaxing into a smile as I write; tension that eases as the words begin to come; an exhaustion begging for rest but needing to be delayed just for a little.

I do not want to bore you with details.  Enough to say that things continue rocky, my wife willing a state of “normalcy,” which I steadfastly, but at cost, resist.  Life does go on around here, after a fashion, but always tense.  Needs to be pushed on, and counseling is the only available prod, though now she sees it as more “Stephen” counseling than marriage counseling.  The  twists and turns of this thing have become entirely unpredictable and somewhat nerve-wracking.

I feel the muscles in my legs relaxing–a sure sign that Carol deprivation has begun to relent for the moment–not gone to be sure–there’s only one cure for that–one fix to stop the tremors.

Well, we have jumped the clock and I must get some rest….and so I’ll leave Popeye chasing the Frog from NY to Marseille, and off to a sleep better for having written a letter to you.

Sunday night

I have just read over the above, and I pity your poor eyes.  I will try to write more legibly.

I wonder if Carol Deprivation (CD from now on) could result in a rash.  I feel my skin begin to itch in several places.  If a rash does break out, at least I know where to find the best salve.

I think you can see how at least one part of my psyche is functioning.  For the rest, it endures as best it can.

I have just finished going over about a hundred page proofs [of a textbook, coauthored with a reading professor], and have the last hundred still to do in the next couple of days.  Beneath this pad sits a pile of compositions awaiting my discerning, though presently somewhat bloodshot eye.  The work provides necessary relief and sense of accomplishment or order.

I feel more than usually fragmented–swamped with work, and of course  the continuing problem which has its own particularly lunatic dichotomies.  I am used to the pull of work responsibilities, but this other, though certainly not novel, is, of course, extraordinarily intense.  Today, we bought a microwave, something my wife has wanted for some time, and we did some spring clean-up outside; and later this week skylights will be installed, and we will hire somebody to do more work on the property; and prepare for a party this weekend–all signs of continuity and continuance.  But all is undermined by a sense of impending dissolution, all is conducted with simmering tension amid the mostly unspoken, but sometimes grimly articulated pronouncements of an ending.  Rationally, these things should go on. No sense digging a hole and pulling the lid over; no point retreating into bunkers of inactivity; the house and property still must be attended to, and social  arrangements should not be canceled for a possibility, no matter how that possibility might mock the arrangements.

So much for the rational.  Emotionally, though useful in some way, I  suppose, these contradictory signs and feelings produce constant light and/or heavy headedness like rowing like hell in one direction while the boat perversely floats the other, and not knowing which way is upstream or down.

In all of this, CD is almost  tolerable affliction.  At least, it is sharply focused and entirely unambiguous.  Almost tolerable, that is.

But not quite.

Not at all.


[Carol’s response including a reference to how she dealt with ending her first, troubled marriage, and concluding with a pictorial representation indicating her view concerning my upstream/downstream analogy.

Tuesday evening


I skipped class this evening for the sheer joy of being outside before a rainstorm.  Antique clothing shops turned up futile this time [she dressed as a flapper for our wedding] & I’ve come back to the ap’t  to eat a dinner (quietly by myself–joy in itself) of tuna fish, Ritz crackers & cheese & wine.  It’s so fulfilling to sit here & write to you & eat a simple dinner as if this was all I ever needed (almost) (not quite).

A passing snap at your situation–one of probably a very few you’ll ever hear from me (unless I lose my mind) (which is altogether possible these changing days, but limited–still- to temporariness).

The range of emotions, the abuse both mental & physical that you’ve been telling me you’re receiving is, or more than likely, grounds for divorce in this state.  Bear with me, this is not a suggestion if you’re thinking such  thoughts (you know I’d never do that)–my concern w/that thought is not the legal end, it’s you.  I know you’re doing what you think best, but how long will you take abuse–setting aside your own priorities, happiness (for lack of a better word)….it’s like setting yourself up for a twisting of your emotions that’ll eventually wring you dry & leave only dust particles.  Will it make you happy if your wife finds a comfortable resolution even though it take years  & there’s  little left of you?  I can see making love to a stubborn little dust particle, but I don’t relish the thought.,,,

So I’ll  tell you the underlying story.  I did what you’re doing–the same way,  the same thought: that it’s the best way.  The pattern’s the same although  the particulars vary.  It’s not necessarily similar between your wife and my ex-husband–it’s the similarity of the pattern between you and me–too similar for comfortable sideline watching; maybe that’s one reason for writing.   It’s not the physical abuse,  the hysteria per se–it’s the range, the extremes, the weeping & crying & then the other that’s the true abuse.  I waited five years to file for divorce so I wouldn’t slam him w/ an abuse charge.  How many years does it take for you to know that you don’t have to live like you’re living?  Your attitude, her lack of resolution, the abuse, the anger  (that has to be there somewhere)–it twists the guts until you no longer know if you’re facing up or downstream.  Sound familiar?  You’ve mentioned twice in a week that you don’t know which way the current is running……  Let me end this with a better line: how long will you try to steer the boat upstream when it wants to go down & you want to be on a different river?


You’ll have to excuse  the egotism of the following diagram, but I do have to find ways to amuse myself & you in the midst of all this turbulence.

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