I played this mental game after my first Danish husband & I split. If you’ve been divorced – especially if you occasionally ponder what you saw in your ex- in the first place – you have probably played it too. It’s called If I paid attention when he said/did … (fill in the blank) … then I wouldn’t have married him/waited all this time. It’s a useless game, truly a waste of energy, but like so much else that pops up in the rearview mirror, we can’t seem to leave it alone. Then of course sometimes we do pay attention & protest, but it never gets further than that. Maybe the ex- actually paid attention then, nodded sagely or repentantly & said you were right & it wouldn’t happen again. Often enough that was just to shut you up, but sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes we can almost take our words back, never quite. We all say really stupid stuff, & I groan to think of Mr. Past History playing the same game with things I said and did. (Less unsettling just to remember his.) His biggest pecking point was intellectualler-than-thou. The fact that I talked about feelings & ordinary happenings & people I knew meant I was not intellectual. Like the day I came home from a class where the lecturer got a discussion going on whether or not a book has a life on a shelf if it’s not being read. Now there’s a real milestone in intellectual history. All around me the discussion rambled for about half the class time & I practiced acting by looking halfway interested. When I got home I griped about the waste of time. Mr. PH answered by carrying on the important discussion right there in our kitchen. I got his point; didn’t look like he got mine. Some books I love, even when I’m not reading them. I quote them when appropriate to a conversation, don’t forget them even though I read on. Others I wouldn’t miss if they committed suicide because someone told them they don’t have a life. Still others are there mostly for show, because everybody’s supposed to own those particular classics & I can say I’ve read them but that’s as far as it goes. I guess they have a sort of life, rather like a piece of Royal Copenhagen porcelain you don’t really care about, but it looks cool on the windowsill.
But so what? It’s like that old – pardon the expression – chestnut: If a tree falls in the forest & nobody hears it, did it make a sound? C’mon. It would have to be one unusual forest if there were no birds, bugs or small animals around to hear – or did the inventor of this particular bit of academic drivel feel that only people had the right to determine whether or not there was sound? And why should we care?
Of course it’s a terrific way to play clever & keep your feelings & anything that touches real life at bay. Might even be marginally less a waste of time than that divorcee game. But only just.