Existence Is Optional, Not Required

On the topic of suicide (everybody’s favorite), comedian Doug Stanhope takes issue with the statement:  “He took the coward’s way out.”  Not to promote the practice of extinguishing yourself–except in a Buddhistic sense–but such an attitude has always struck me as bereft of compassion for someone who has taken his or her life, a stubborn failure to empathize that suggests what might have have given that person the incentive to check out of this particular hotel (why not call it Hell?) in the first place.

In a kinder vein (no pun intended), Stanhope says that if you’re half way through a movie that’s sucked from the opening credits and hasn’t gotten any better after an hour’s viewing, it’s understandable if you get up and head for the exit.

All this is by way of saying it’s hard to motivate yourself to continue living when the most prominent elements of your life appear to be conspiring against you, while the Grim Reaper waits in the wings off stage, having exchanged His scythe with one of those long hooks used for removing hacks midway through their unwatchable acts, snagging them around the neck and dragging them screaming into the shadows to be eaten by greedily snapping reptiles.

I’ve written about certain health problems that threaten my continued longevity (having nearly made it to fifty is a considerable accomplishment, not that I’ve achieved anything save the doubtful act of being alive).  Suffice it to say that they persist.  If I had to weigh the pros and cons of life on the scales, the former would probably tilt the balance their way, but only slightly.  It’s hard not to get too attached to all the crap you have to do just to sustain yourself, to maintain questionable relationships with people who can’t seem to decide whether to be your friend or your foe, to know how much attention to pay to all the problems devouring the world and you along with it, and to figure out how to begin how to solve them instead of making them even worse than they already are.

The travails and rigors of marriage can help distract you from yourself, from your own built-in antagonisms.  My mind is often a festering nest of resentments and obsessions.  I no longer drink (except a little now and then), so it’s easier for me to see it in all its ugly little glory, its adorable horror.  It would be hard to find a spoon big enough to scoop it out with and catapult it towards some hungry squirrels, not that I’d recommend that they eat it if acorns are available.

As weak and crazy as I am, I managed to find someone even weaker and crazier to marry.  I was her first love, and I’m not sure what number she was.  I can’t count that high (I’m not trying to brag; I’ve fallen in love with far more women than I’ve ever been involved with, and the pattern has continued since having gotten married; if you want to call this a sin, you can blame God for creating human brains this way).

The other night (Saturday, the night after her shoe-throwing tantrum described in the previous entry) she got on my case again about not believing in Jesus.  She blamed me for having a lack of faith.  I said I couldn’t believe in him if I wanted to, at least not in the same way she does.  Besides, her fanatical devotion to this particular specimen hasn’t appeared to make her consistently happier or more stable; if anything, it’s a symptom of her disease and deep mental illness (speaking as a layman who knows her better than anyone has a right to).  I’m also against the conformity imposed by organized religion.  Some degree of conformity may be necessary to keep society in order, especially when you’re driving a car, but the amount required by her church is stifling.  It’s irresponsible to relinquish the ability to think for yourself, and doubly so if you’re letting another, fallible mortal do your thinking for you.  This is the worst kind of self-betrayal.

Somehow we got on the subject of divorce again, then she switched tacks and apologized for ruining my life (Freudian slip:  I originally wrote “wife”).  She got down on her knees and prostrated herself, saying she never should have pressured me into marrying her.  I told her it was okay, alarmed by this sudden show of obsequiousness.  (Jina, more than anyone I’ve ever met, has mastered the art of keeping me guessing.)  She asked me to forgive her.  I did.  Then she remained in that position, bowing down on the kitchen floor, for quite some time, blubbering solemnly.

It was bedtime and I wanted to get some sleep.  I had to pull her up from off the floor, then she got mad at me for interrupting the ceremony of her apology.

Alas, her anger faded, and the rest is either history or mystery.

So that might give you some idea of the position I’m in.  I’m stuck in a marriage to a hectoring, petty, in some ways ungiving wife who’s also morbidly clingy and needy and putatively unable to live without me.  It’s the most fucked-up expression of love I’ve ever seen, even more pathetic and neurotic than I’ve been at my worst.  If I divorce her, it may be difficult if not impossible for her to find anyone else.  She’s over forty, which in Korean culture means she might as well be a million years old.  Despite a divorce rate rivaling that of the U. S., the culture is still patriarchal, and divorced women are demonized and treated as pariahs.  Her church likewise frowns upon divorce, providing a double-whammy that means to keep her locked in a shite marriage for the rest of her life.

That said, she does love me, but not in a wise way.  (I almost wrote “not in a good way,” but that might have come across as too ungrateful.)

This forces me to be the one to end it, and accept whatever karma that entails.  Two Jenny Holzer quotes come to mind:  “Every achievement requires a sacrifice,” and “Ambivalence can ruin your life.”

I pray to a God I don’t believe in and who wouldn’t recognize me if he or she did exist for the strength to follow through with what needs to be done. 

Otherwise, I’ll croak in advance (but not by suicide–at least not the conscious variety), deus ex machina a la Grim Reaper, the man who always has a winning smile on his face.

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6 thoughts on “Existence Is Optional, Not Required

    • thanks very much for your praise. kindly readers like you who take the time to write such generous comments give me a strong incentive not to throw in the towel. i look forward to visiting your blog.

  1. Wow. Can you add the craft of ouch-truth writing to your list of reasons to stick it out? In this world if not in the marriage (though I can tell you from the other side, divorce doesn’t free you from a damned thing).

    You are a helluva writer!

    • you’re very kind to say so. i agree that writing can be a liberating force in one’s life, despite the elusiveness of fame and fortune, even for someone as talented as herman melville, yourself, or a lot of other gifted writers working today, many of them through wordpress. i also appreciate your honesty regarding the non-idealness of divorce; i guess we’re all condemned to what buddhists call “dukkha,” meaning “unsatisfactoriness.” thank you very much for the shot in the arm.

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