According to the Holmes/Rahe Life Events Scale, divorce is second only to the death of a spouse as the most stress-inducing thing a person can experience.
Like a tank of unregulated Freedom Industry chemicals, divorce leaks into everything. Contaminates everything. And however much you want to contain it -- however much you understand intellectually about the process of loss into which you have been thrust -- the maddening thing is, even as you observe it happening to you, you cannot stop it.
Divorce zaps you into a kind of brutal anti-zen eternal-now of "This is my life coming to an end." Your resilience evaporates. Your memory abruptly gets very good and terribly selective. Every cheery thing you ever said to anyone about "overcoming" and "hanging in there" comes flicking out of the past to stab you. High school Hemingway -- "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills" -- comes back to mock you because quite obviously you will never be strong again.
The future is a fog-bound mire full of suddenly impossibly heavy things like "appointments" and "work" and "talking to people" that you are supposed to still be able to shoulder. Your dreams become a horrid, nightly slow-boat through the worst abattoirs your imagination can cook up.
Even your synovial fluids seem to turn on you because, Jesus, now your goddamn bones ache and the points at which they move against each other have been packed with gravel and peanut shells.
Divorce can't not touch every part of you.
So why mention this?
Because David Brooks has written a column on dealing with grief. Not his grief, of course: that is not the way of someone who has spent his entire life aspiring to be America's most repressed Reasonable Conservative neo-Tory. Instead, Mr. Brooks has done a good job summarizing and giving a much wider audience to an excellent blog post by Catherine Woodiwiss entitled "A New Normal: Ten Things I've Learned About Trauma".
So good on Mr. Brooks for that, and a better person than me would just stop there and leave it be.
But being a dirty and disreputable hippie, I am moved to ask "Why?" Why this column? Why now?
See, ever since our Beltway Media Overlords opted to destroy political journalism by obsessively harping on a few bullshit themes (ex: Both Sides Do It!) and putting a virtual embargo on any discussion of genuinely important subjects (ex: Conservatives Are Nuts), we on the Left have had to become preternaturally adept at sussing out the various motives behind what the shills and hacks and bought-off advertorial scriveners of our Corporate Media choose to report and chooses to omit.
At this point, guessing at "Why?" is a reflex, so of all the subjects available in the world, I had to ask myself why is Mr. Brooks -- whose bread-and-butter has been pumping out horrid tripe about Fake Centrism, the sins of imaginary hippies and the merits of various crackpot Conservative economic schemes and military adventures -- suddenly writing about grief and loss?
And if I had to guess, I'd guess because Mr. Brooks is currently going through a divorce, and that experience permeates everything. In fact if I were doing this as part of a longer, think-tank piece on capital-M Media, I would probably note that a lot Mr. Brooks' recent subject and content choices --
- Why yes, now that you ask, fuck yeah! I do know what's best for you.
- In fact, you know what? Maybe a "bully" is exactly what you need.
- There's a lot of stuff about hotels that most people don't notice.
- No, this is my money. You may not have my money. I worked hard for my money. If you want some of your own money, maybe you'd better learn to work hard for it. Like me.
- Here's a list of things you can do for someone when they're going through some really awful shit.
- * You know, sometimes people just off themselves. Just sayin'.
But as I am not currently employed by a think-tank, you gentle readers are in no danger of me spinning this out any further.
* Thanks to alert reader Yastreblyansky for the reminder.