• allisontgruber

Back on my bullshit


First the lightning, then the cancer, and of course the dog died, and then the pandemic, and the accident, and then the divorce, and then the war.

Set in Milwaukee, readied in Flagstaff, broken in Tucson, shards of heart shipped to Chicago from whence the heart came pre-broken.

Remember past apartments over a salon, over a confectionary, over a lake, overcharged from Illinois to Arizona. Broken heart pants like a German Shepherd ripped to pieces.

Now comes the pathetically predictable inevitable End.

Now, across the sky, comes a cloud awaited impatiently.

Now, there are no other ways to be divided. - Gruber

What you need to know: when I struggle, I write. When I feel sad, I activate Art Powers: read all the fiction, all the nonfiction, all the poetry. Cuddle back into old favorites – The Diaries of Virginia Woolf, Kushner’s Angels, old poetry by dead people named Blake, Simic, and Shaw.

Some Art has lost its Art Power with time. Like The Scream. Ubiquity siphoned the meaning out of it, and now the painting is dead. Not a living thing like some other Art, but a dead thing like a taxidermied elk head or a dead body in Lake Mead.

When I was teaching in Arizona, a kid once told me Lake Mead water “tastes like egg salad,” but only after encouraging me and my wife to “go there.” And when I looked grossed out by “water that tastes of egg salad” she said, “No Gruber! No! The taste doesn’t matter because it’s so beautiful.”

I never went to Lake Mead.* Not for lack of trying. Over the years I tried many times to go places and see things, particularly in the American Southwest, but was met with obstacles either domestic or professional but most often just plain “domestic.”

The taste doesn’t matter because it’s so beautiful. How often I told myself this very thing, in myriad other ways, over the course of the past eight years when like a lunatic I went racing into the arms of a woman I met whilst blogging about “Feminism.”

*Live in the American Southwest long enough and your understanding of water changes. My third book has a whole chapter on this, including a deep-dive into places like Lake Mead, and other places along the mighty Colorado.

As God as my witness I will never marry. As God as my witness I will never date a woman from The Internet which is a much more diabolical, and “real,” place than I ever knew believing, naively, that what happens on The Internet stays on The Internet.

And sometime between when my ex left me for a man from The Internet, on a Sunday morning during the pandemic, and when Medicaid switched my health plan (while I still have stage iv cancer) in the dead of night, in the cruelest spring of my life, I had a nervous breakdown.

Now I am medicated. I dream of Putin, wake up wet with my own sweat, wake in the middle of the night and tell myself, “You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay.” Now I twitch, and fret, and hunt for hope which feels like a brutal task in days when finding hope is a bit like fishing for lightning. Sometimes I feel fast; sometimes I feel slow. Like that old song.

Recipe for Healing from A Nervous Breakdown:

– Dusties. Lots and lots of Dusties. If you know, you know.*

– The color yellow.

– Buddhism. Lots and lots of Buddhism.

– Anti-sad meds in the morning, anti-anxiety meds in the evening.

– The color red.

– Plants. Lots and lots of plants.

– Seltzer water, kleenex, seating options.

– Remind Self not all People Malignant Narcissists Looking to marry and destroy you. Possibly just the one. What was her name . . . ?

*My friend Megan, who lives in the South Loop, told me that on nice Sundays she often hears old men driving down the street, windows down, blasting Dusties. Details like this make me glad to be back in Chicagoland.

I was at Megan’s place last weekend. She had me watch a few episodes of “Grace & Frankie.” I enjoyed it, and I couldn’t bear it.

They’re being so nice to each other, I marveled. They’re talking to each other.

My ex went radio silent the day she left the (rented) house we shared in Tucson. There were occasional texts at first, emails even, once in a while a phone call. We had one meal, the night before I tried to leave with my dog, Abe, only to have him turned away at the counter, leaving me stranded with no choice but to leave him with my ex for later retrieval so I went back, reader. I took my shattered heart back to Tucson to get Abe, and then I drove cross country with Abe. I drove in reverse the drive I’d made nearly ten years earlier with my late, great dog Bernie.

Wouldn’t that make for a warm-fuzzy Ibrance commercial? Some fortysomething dyke packing up her belongings, into a rental car, sobbing, lifting a box and tearfully saying, “Thanks, Ibrance!” Because even if it’s all gone to shit, thanks to modern medical technology, she’s able to lift that motherfuckin box. And that’s really the barometer for a life well lived in America, right? Can you lift a box? Can you still lift a box? If we pump you full of chemicals, will you at least try to lift the box?

I can lift all the boxes. I just don’t want to anymore. Or I need a rest from lifting.

The American Aesthetics, a group to which I once belonged, taught me that I can’t get anything from without. I gotta get all of it from within. The Aesthetics taught me this through their words, and the words of their Dead Leader, and through their actions as individuals which were not always kind. Alas, I have learned what was needed to learn from the Aesthetics and have chosen Buddhism.

Siddhartha also once found the Aesthetics were not for him, and while Gotama Buddha’s Aesthetics were seeking spiritual purity, all I sought from my Aesthetics was a way to quit drinking booze.

Drank too much booze, folks. I don’t know what else to tell you. For what it’s worth, I only drank at night. I always drank alone until I was married to someone who could idly watch me drink at night alone.

I do not drink, and will never drink just as I will never eat a Century Egg, both are now equally gross to my mind.

That said, my problem never really was with alcohol. My problem was with Me.

When I first returned “home” to Chicagoland, I would put on my best Matt Foley voice, make light of the situation, “I am forty-five years old. I am divorced. I do have stage four cancer, and I live in a divorcement apartment down by my parents.” And I’d laugh as I laughed at all the bad shit that happened to me in the past two years: losing my health, losing my best dog friend, losing my classroom on The Mountain to the pandemic, losing my home, losing my wife, soon to lose the pension I built for ten years teaching young people in Arizona, and all that’s left now of my American Dreams is grief. And I struggle to laugh at all.

Still I thank the universe each morning, in meditation, I thank the universe with my body and my voice in chants that are prayers for protection and peace. I remember impermanence, and when I meditate again in the late afternoon, as is my custom these days, I say “empty” until my mind is emptied of everything but the clouds that are there when I close my eyes and gone when I open them: empty.

Be good, hooligans.

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