The Ultimate Fool’s Errand

Only once has someone broken up with me in a way that I immediately and completely accepted. Really, this was quite an achievement, because historically I date people off and on forever unless they reveal themselves to be complete sociopaths or get married. (Although my aversion to marriage is well-documented, I am not in the business of making third parties miserable.)

But though this beau was neither married nor a complete sociopath, his breakup line was so effective that we never spoke again once he uttered it. In a low, caressing voice he said: “It seems this is not what we had hoped.”

In point of fact, he was absolutely right. We’d been dating for four months, which is exactly how long it takes for sexual chemistry to wear off when there’s no other glue in place. I won’t bog you down with the details (he did too much coke and considered me too much of a prude) but as I write this I can assure you that, 20 years later, the only real memory I have of that relationship are those nine magic words.

It seems this is not what we had hoped.

When he said this, my whole system relaxed. Shoulders, jaw, stomach, heart, mind. Vagina, too. Because it was that simple. We’d hoped it would be something that it was not. Disappointing? Sure. But also: inarguable. So I nodded, carefully collected my things (this being one breakup that would not entail a protracted division of property), and quietly took my leave. Forever.

Lately, his words have been ringing in my ears nonstop. Because almost nothing is what I had hoped.

As I write this, I am perched again in my Brooklyn apartment—broke, out of sorts, at absolute loose ends. Until a few days ago, I had labored under the impression that I’d be living in the Catskills, where a colleague and friend had recently purchased a live/work space that she’d invited me to share for the rest of the summer.

The prospect of this haven—which we referred to as Tenth House, in reference to the astrological house of professional and spiritual callings—had shored me through these last months of personal illness and national upheaval.

As readers of this blog know, in May I was felled by a nasty urinary tract infection that bloomed into my kidneys and threatened to grow septic. My doctor feels the involvement of my kidneys might have stemmed from an undiagnosed covid infection earlier in the spring; I worry it might have stemmed from the hormonal maelstrom of the second puberty commonly known as peri-menopause. Either way: Imagine searing back and abdomen pain accompanied by a burning need to urinate every minute of every day no matter how recently you’ve voided your bladder. In the first week of June, I slept two hours total.

In Masshole parlance: It fuckin’ sucked.

And in retrospect, my brilliant idea to mine my “dis-ease” as an opportunity to write about my deceased frenemy Ute, who died at 34 of a disease in her own sexual organs, was the worst healing plan ever hatched. During my convalescence all I really could do was moan, writhe, and hope.

And I’m the girl who deems hope a fool’s errand.

This is not because I am a cynic. Anyone who embraces the good wind of the universe as I do can hardly be deemed a cynic. Hell, I’m the lady who refers to herself as a “practical magician.”

But I always say there’s a huge difference between holding space and holding hope. The former stems from the belief that if you work hard and live authentically, you leave room for magic to meet you halfway. The latter entails an attachment to the exact form of magic, which is how trouble creeps in. To wit: There’s only one true love for me. There’s only one acceptable way to become a parent. I’ll only be happy with this particular career.

Because the more attached you are to one particular form, the more you block out the pleasures and rewards of the divine mystery. Which leads to…..

It seems this is not what we had hoped.

Here is what it actually took to heal:

1. Prayer
2. Crystals (I rolled my eyes, but they helped.)
3. Daily psychotherapy (for the first time since the ’90s)
4. Daily yoga (for the first time since the ‘90s)
5. Antibiotics (for the first time in 20 years)
6. Anti-anxiety meds (for the first time in my life)
7. A full-body hug (for the first time in five months)
8. A diet consisting solely of grains, vegetables, gallons of distilled water, and small portions of fish.
9. The omission of all toxins, including alcohol, flour, caffeine, sweeteners, fruit, dairy, wheat, and humans from whom I did not feel uncomplicated support.
10. The promise of SOF.

SOF—or Summer of Fun—is how my friend and I referred to the joy we’d share once she closed on her new home. As we discussed it, her three-story house would serve as a mecca of professional, creative, and personal expansion in which we’d sing, dance, work, write, set up her new space, make beautiful meals, and just generally flourish.

But before we crossed that finish line, I had to contend with some terribly real-life concerns. Namely: That my dear friend died suddenly. That the Legend and I were doing each other no favors by being back in touch. (See: earlier caveat about exes whom I permanently cut off.) And that my mother, a registered nurse with whom I’d reunited because I was concerned about her well-being in the shadow of Covid, kept saying things like: “Wow, UTIs can get into kidneys? Isn’t that something…” before quickly changing the subject to the nice walk she’d taken. It was as if we were discussing an unusual shade of peony or an odd birthmark on a distant cousin rather than my mortality. Though it was hardly the first time she’d been cavalier about my welfare, this time it hit harder, perhaps because I’d stayed away long enough to lose my immunity to her immunity.

Cue crippling nightmares about past horrors I’d never fully acknowledged, let alone processed.

I kept flashing on that scene in David O. Russell’s vastly underrated pseudo-French philosophy film I Heart Huckabees. You know, when Talia Shire is screaming, “What are you, a bitch? You’re a bitch!” and Isabelle Huppert turns to Jason Schwartzman (Shire’s real-life son) and calmly murmurs: “Listen. Listen. This is your mother.”

Add to this my not being able to work while I was sick, which was especially problematic because being sick in 2020 America is very, very expensive. And taxes being due July 15 and and and…

By the time SOF came around, I was physically and emotionally on the mend, but financially tapped out.

I called my friend to discuss her expectations of my tenure in Tenth House. “I can’t invest in any aspect of a second home when I’m not able to carry my first one,” I said apologetically. “I’m officially offering you an out.”

“All you have to do is pay for your and Grace’s food,’ she replied. “I view you as a housewarming gift to myself.” It was such a lovely thing to say that I ignored the chill I felt at the back of my neck, especially when she went on to say she was a very easy person to live with.

Beware the intuitive who ignores her intuition–not to mention people who say they’re easy to live with. It’s akin to what I refer to as “the hegemony of chill”—namely, that anyone who describes themselves as chill is anything but. Rather, such such people expect everyone else to chill no matter what mishegos they themselves pull.

It goes without saying that I am anything but chill. And that no grown woman who’s lived alone for most of her life can easily share space–a category that includes my friend and me.

I can’t bear to disclose the details of what happened upstate. Maybe someday I will, when it’s less fresh and I find the story funny rather than infuriating—also when the friend in question is less likely to read my account. Suffice it to say that every button I have about being a beggar who can’t choose got pushed, that my hurt was compounded by how beautifully we’d supported each other in the past, and that sometimes it is impossible to close the gap between people’s perception of their actions and their actual actions. Also that sometimes the only way to overlook others’ cruelties is to remind yourself that they are too impaired to be conscious of them.

Five days later I came home on the first day of my period in 98 degree weather, having wasted time and money and good will I could not spare. Grace was so traumatized that she hid under the bed for two days upon our return. Only on Day 3 did she begin to eat again. And you know: Mess with me and eventually I’ll forgive you. Mess with my cat and I may never find kindness for you again.

As I write this, I feel more despondent than I have at any point in this terrible year. In fact, I am so despondent that I’m telling you about it, though I am ashamed about the change in my glorious plans and rarely speak when I have nothing nice to say.

Because as bad as things were before, a green and gold horizon still unrolled before me—there was still a SOF to behold. Now I’m just forlorn and flat-broke, confined to a claustrophobic city made worse by a pandemic made worse by a dangerously disordered government.

I am blessed with lovely friends, a lovely familiar, and a lovely rent-stabilized pad with high tin ceilings. And I’m grateful for how my Ruby Intuition practice has supported others and myself since I took it online this spring. But it requires months to get a business off the ground, and I need money now. Because though I am six months from my 50th birthday, my recent illness and failed venture upstate entirely cleared my life savings as well as my emotional and physical reserves.

I am worried I don’t have the proper resources to survive, let alone thrive.

Do I labor under the delusion that I’m alone in my suffering? Of course not. The twin viruses of covid and capitalism are hastening the U.S. dystopia more rapidly than anyone could have predicted. Fascism is taking root. All social and environmental protections have been dismantled by this larcenous administration. In short, we are one hurricane away from unchecked, widespread chaos and I have no safeguards in place as we plummet. Cue the biggest lesson of 2020.

It seems this is not what we had hoped.

Americans dress up dashed dreams as teaching moments or medicalize them as depression or globalize them into something catastrophic. Lately the latter makes sense. But in terms of my recent turn of events, sometimes disappointment is just disappointment.

So as sad as I feel, I must accept my new reality in order to make room for something better. There are still aspects of my life that I can control. To that end, I will continue to cultivate my Ruby Intuition practice. I will revise my book. I will spend time with people who love me as I am, rather than as how they wish me to be. I will find a way to feed Grace and me.

I will do my best to spread light.

Because when life doesn’t go as hoped, we must help each other build new dreams.

Postscript: Many have privately messaged to ask how they may help. My answer is thricefold. 1. Thank you for the kind concern. 2. I am not too proud to gratefully accept Venmo donations (handle lisa-rosman) or contributions from Paypal (handle is lisarosman). 3. Feel free to book a reading or to spread the word about my practice so I may support others as you support me. Grace and I need groceries!

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy