Believing 6 Impossible Things Before Breakfast*

My friend put her finger on it. ‘Your problem is, you still think he will do the right thing.’

That’s it!  It’s been over four years, and he has treated us with such callous indifference and cruelty ever since: you’d think I would get it by now.  Though his fucking off was unannounced and shocking, I didn’t blame him for wanting to leave me.  But the rest?  No, I absolutely cannot believe what has been staring me in the face.

It’s partly also (to be fair to me) that he keeps SAYING stuff that is not true and that does not marry with what he is DOING.  Like when you have to read the word BLUE but it is written in RED and you get confused.  Or (one of my brother’s annoying specialties) saying yes while shaking your head, or no while nodding.  The brain gets confused.

My brain has been addled for a very long time.  Gaslighting, they call it.  I marvel at the stories of people who escape from cults, or who have been locked in cellars for years, or whatever, all (obviously!) far, far more extreme than anything that has been done to me.  I always used to devour such stories and strain to understand how these people could recover, could retain or regain a sense of themselves and what was right.  These days I find it too painful.

These days, even in ordinary life, there is so much not to believe.  Chief amongst them: I cannot believe Trump won.  I can believe Brexit and, though shocked, was not so surprised by that one.  But Trump?  No.  I’ve maintained from the start, before he was even a candidate, but just a businessman, that you only had to see him on the telly, even with the sound off, to know he was a BAD MAN.  And had a screw loose.  (I watch Melania and wonder what she really thinks and whether she even knows what she thinks.)

And my bollockheaded ex?  Would he have appeared evil and stupid even with the sound off?  Towards the end, through a glass darkly, when I was hardly able to see him at all, in that 9 hour meeting, I realised, dimly, that he was an idiot.  It was a shock.  He studied maths at Cambridge, yet he was making quite extraordinary mistakes with numbers, and (Trump-like) insisting on sticking to his guns even when we all tried to show him where he had gone wrong.  So, evidence of stupidity started to seep through, and is now coming thick and fast.  But evil?

I wonder, is it that I cannot believe that the man I loved and married would behave thus, because it is so unlike him?  Or can I not believe that ANYONE would have absolutely no regard for their own children, whom they lived with and seemed to love?  Both.  Can I not believe it of HIM, that he would simply ignore his moral and legal obligations, not only to the mother of his children (who, after all, is no longer any relation or relevance to him) but also to the children themselves?  Or of anyone?  Both.  But more especially of him.  Of course I have come across stories of deadbeat dads before.  I found it hard to understand but never gave it that much thought.

I had a two month booking for the annex.  Woman in Germany enquired about it, said she’d be in London soon and could she come and look?  Sure.  So I asked the girls in there to tidy up, and when the German woman and her friend turned up early, and the girls didn’t open the door and were probably still in bed, I invited the visitors into my home, offered them coffee and sat down and chatted with them with my son.  They looked around, liked what they saw, and booked soon after.  That was just a week ago.  Yippee!  Another two months’ rent!  It does not pay the bills or fill the void left by the maintenance I am not getting, but it helps!  Yesterday she contacted me to say she’d changed her mind.  I sent a polite reply thanking her for letting me know.  Then she began to get frantic because she had paid in full up front to airbnb (though I hadn’t received any money), and on cancelling had received only half of it back.  It turns out that, although I had selected ‘flexible’ cancellation policy, in the case of a longer booking, you forfeit the first month.  So I then spent the afternoon fielding her messages, and dealing with airbnb to try to return her money to her.  It was made clear to me by the very nice person on chat (once I got hold of her) that I was entitled to keep all or as much of the money as I wanted.  Of course I would have liked to keep it, but it didn’t seem fair that she should pay a month’s rent for nothing.  So I returned it all.  Because I would not have felt happy if I had done anything else.  I wonder whether I should have been hardnosed and maybe offered her half?  No, I would have felt guilty.

I’ve wandered off the topic of believing the impossible, to illustrate my belief in a moral imperative, a conscience, a consciousness that even children and even monkeys and birds have, of what is right or fair.  And – call me an idiot – I cannot believe that others don’t have it even though the most cursory glance at a newspaper or history book tells us that it is so.  But asking me to believe it of the arsehole I married?  I wish I could, since it is patently the case.  And this refusal to accept what is staring me in the face is driving me crazy.  Maybe I will try taking the Queen’s advice: draw a long breath and close my eyes, and see if that helps?


*  The Queen, in Alice through the Looking Glass:
“I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”.


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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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