When I was writing my memoir, which is sort of a chronicle of all my failed love relationships, each morning when I sat down to write it was like spinning “The Wheel of a Shtuken Nisht in Harts.” (This is a Yiddish phrase that means a painful, miserable memory that stabs the heart and hurts like hell.)
It was a literary smorgasbord of cupid’s failures. For instance, when I sat down, I’d think, “Do I write about the time my wife and I shaved our heads three days after our wedding and I no longer found her attractive? Or the fact that my cousin ended up marrying my old girlfriend so now she’s like a bugger on the finger of my life? Or my unusual courtship ritual that involved giving girls I had crushes on elaborate and large cardboard boxes that only ever ended in eventual and awkward singledom?”
I assumed that once my book was published that I’d have purged myself of those memories and the subsequent need to write about failed love. Instead, my book has given me even more opportunities to partake in this ritual. I now blog about relationships for Psychology Today and write a dating advice column at howdoidate.com.
Hence, I get to continue to push on all my relationship bruises – usually writing about one experience until I am too overwhelmed and then moving onto the next – sometimes having as many fourteen miserable memories open at once in my browser window. Such misery is my quintessential stereotypical Jewish experience.
It reminds me of when my grandmother, who was temporarily living with my family, decided to get off her prescribed meds – about 22 of them in all. She had to get off them because they were destroying her body. She was a Leo and she took them so she wouldn’t remember the bad parts of the Holocaust. (Leo’s are ruled by the heart, but it was ironic that the first thing the meds destroyed was her heart.)
The doctors ended up replacing one of her heart valves with a pig’s heart valve – which says a helluva a lot about karma. Well, the pig valve didn’t like her meds any more than her old valve and so she started going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings. She would sit around with a bunch of crackheads and heroine addicts and she eventually endeared herself to them. She had friends that wore leather and had deep profound scars just like her.
“I only took the meds the doctor prescribed,” she would say.
Eventually she kicked her meds, but the memories came back. One night, an imaginary Chinese man in a cape flew down into her room and took her hand. She called him “The Yellow Goy.” TYG led her to the edge of the staircase. He told her to fly away with him. I imagine it was all very romantic.
She ended up crumpled at the bottom of the staircase, bloody, crying, and wondering why all the love in her world had suddenly evaporated.
I think about her flight sometimes when I write. How, for at least a few glorious seconds, there must have been some magic in being propelled through the air with a Chinese Superman without the aid of a mechanical motor. How, letting go of such a great restraint must have allowed her to feel true freedom for the first time in her life, no matter how short the duration of that freedom actually was.
I think often about the ritual and rigamarole I put myself through to avoid the painful parts of my life. I’d like to believe that one day I’ll have purged myself of all my wonky love karma and at the end of my own staircase there will be my own Chinese Superman waiting to whisk me away with the ultimate reward – a few moments of flight without mechanical motor. Until then, I spin the wheel and purge and dream about flight.