Vanya interval

[this is about me and what is important about the play to me, so feel to scroll on by if you’re more interested in Armitage or the play without reference to my state of mind]

I’m halfway through — three shows seen, three more to see. American Airlines has started to bombard me with emails castigating me for the imprudence of daring to book a flight through O’Hare Airport in January. I didn’t really have plans for this trip beyond the play (I’ve been teaching an online class, and our next term starts Monday morning — whether or not the weather allows me to make it home). I tried to get the Conor McPherson script (it’s been delayed) and I wanted to get some Elton John stamps (none of the post offices I visited had them, so I will get some off the website). I bought the tackiest souvenir ever (a cheap umbrella with the UK flag on it) and actually used it last night. I consumed a full English breakfast three of the four days I’ve been here so far. I ate at one restaurant favorite and discovered a few new ones, one at the generous invitation of a friend. As always when I visit, my Coke consumption fell and my water consumption rose. I didn’t go many places but I walked everywhere I went.

It’s been a great week.

Apart from the expense, I could get used to this: a cooked breakfast every morning that someone else makes, at my desk during the day, Richard Armitage on the stage every evening. It’s been a nice week largely free from worries: about dad, about myself, about the future. About the US political situation. It’s perhaps not surprising that those concerns are starting to creep back, though, and maybe not least because of this play.

There’s been a weird coincidence over the years between my fundamental questions and milestones of Armitage’s work, to wit:

  • N&S penetrating my awareness at the point when I was having problems with working too much
  • Then Spooks — a series about betrayals, as I was dealing with that issue myself at work
  • Guy of Gisborne — who got me to blog
  • Then Strike Back — really the point at which I joined the fandom — a show about having to assert your status to people who should know better
  • The Hobbit — films with a main character driven to ruin by his inability to abandon a quest that was ultimately foiled for him by his own weaknesses
  • The Cruciblea life changing experience for me as spectator
  • Hannibal — a bunch of messages about self-esteem that really struck me, but which I didn’t have the fortitude to pursue given both the medium and my own fragility (and maybe still don’t)

And of course, there have been other brief moments in projects I liked less well, that underlined things for me that seem important to him (stuff like “be okay with who you are,” which comes up in Sparkhouse, Moving On, Pilgrimage, and even Captain America). So for those people who wonder why I continue to have a crush on Richard Armitage when I don’t even always seem to like him on a day to day basis, it’s trajectory issues like this. I have always identified with the person I understand him to be and the choices I’ve seen him making as much as I have found him attractive (although that was certainly not irrelevant).

So I wonder if the theme here — and the reason I was supposed to see this play just now — was the emphasis in Astrov’s lines on “not having any feelings,” “not having anything to look forward to” or perhaps more accurately, “just when you don’t need them, all those feelings come back.” On some level, most of the characters in this play are hypocritical and that’s true of Astrov as well: it’s clear there are feelings he has no problem feeling (for the forest, for Yelena). Maybe it’s just that they are not the feelings he is supposed to feel, or that as feelings, they make him hurt as much as anything else.

I can identify, both with the emptiness (in my case filled mostly by anxiety) and with the reaction that feelings come when you don’t want them (in my case, anger).

I was as surprised as anyone that I got here. I did a good job (with the help of my dementia coach) of setting myself up by buying the tickets and making hotel and plane reservations — primarily because I needed some hope at the time. But the chore of finding substitute care for dad was one of the worst ordeals of my life (and in turn has made me dread how much worse all of this could get). I made an arrangement for someone to come and stay with him while I was gone — but when the first person fell through and the substitute arrangement was going to be six different people, I knew that would not fly. I asked my uncle, whose wife had just had a knee replacement, after which they both had the horrible awful flu. I mentioned it to my brother but it was not possible. The only option was going to be respite care (this is an option where someone goes to assisted living for a week), but dad was opposed.

I don’t just mean he didn’t want to go, I mean he did everything he could to make my life impossible for days and days: accusations (“you’re trying to piss away my money”), refusals to cooperate with long-standing plans including dental appointments (“you don’t care if I die”), refusals to eat food he would normally eat. He told me I could not leave him if he could not stay at home alone and everyone — the doctors, the attorney, my brother, me, the GCM — agrees he can’t stay home by himself. In the end, he called my uncle, whom he told that I was planning to sign him into assisted living and leave him there. My uncle — who is 83 and whose wife is 87 — capitulated and I drove dad there on Saturday morning, but not without the now expected knock down, dragout fight about the route I chose to get to the back of beyond. I was in tears. He really didn’t care. I don’t know how much of it is calculated on his part or comes from powerlessness or cluelessness or if he enjoys this or has just decided he’s going to make me miserable if I leave him or or or or. In the end I was allowed to leave him but not without punishment and I assume there will be more punishment when I get home for having done so.

Not only will there be this week to atone for but also, I’m teaching basically a full time schedule this spring (at two different universities — this was why if I came to London it had to be this week, because the respective spring breaks don’t coincide) and so there is going to be, beginning next week, a second senior helper (our first one doesn’t have any more additional hours). Because something else I discovered once dad began to put up with the first senior helper was that my mind does actually still work if I can get away from the dementia dance for a few hours and just concentrate. And because my own increasingly dead affect dissipates somewhat when I can accomplish something (like Astrov with his forests).

So I’m worried: about dad, about what we might do to each other if he stays at home, about what we might do to each other if he doesn’t, about work, about how to live my life, and to some extent, about the fact that there’s always a tendency to regress when one returns to an old setting (and I have only been away for a week). I’m going to do some mindfulness exercises to try to deal with the anxiety and to enhance my ability to concentrate. It’s also clear that I’m going to have to be able to get away from dad more regularly and affordably (not just one week on another continent every eighteen months) and that this is going to have to be the exchange for him living at home with me. This may be the hardest battle I’ve ever fought with a family member and it’s not going to help that dad is hardly rational.

I don’t think — unfortunately — that Vanya really offers a solution to me. Astrov seems to be urging others to take comfort in the afterlife. Sonia is interested in committing to work (and, in fact, I’ve been following the Sonia solution up till now, and my affect is disintegrating, piece by piece). I’m going to need something else as committing myself to pursuing my values over “endless days” is definitely not working, and I can’t wait for wholeness until I die. I don’t know what it is. But the play’s been an important reminder to look and look harder.

And I had my first new Armitage fantasy since the stroke. It was a relief, a sign, and way past comforting. Maybe even inspiring.

~ by Servetus on January 17, 2020.

17 Responses to “Vanya interval”

  1. That’s quite a load you’re dealing with – life certainly gets intense at times. I pray that you find the solution that will put you back on the path to “wholeness.”
    I am drawn to Richard for many reasons. I remember reading an interview in which he said his agent advised him to find another career, and I find myself telling that story to a number of people as a way to not give up and to believe you can.
    God bless you, and thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are one of the strongest persons I know. You probably don’t feel like it but to me you definitely are. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am sorry to hear of all the obstacles you had to overcome to make this happen. Your post shows that it was all worth it. Hoping that the journey to London has recharged your batteries in many ways – creatively, personally, in terms of fangirling, in terms of providing relief.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m so glad that you did manage to get there and that you’re having a great time. It’s amazing how restorative being alone with your own thoughts is. I fantasize about being in a hotel room by myself for several days. I’m not dealing with what you are, and yet I identify with a lot of what you are going through emotionally. I wish I could write about it like you do. But then I have so much to be grateful for and my complaints all seem so trivial and nonspecific. Anyway, I hope the rest of your week is just as good as the first half.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG, do not underrate the alone time as a component in all of this for me. I’ve gotta figure out how to find more of it. I have had the do not disturb sign up for five straight days.

      I’m not sure having stuff to be grateful for really cancels out the other stuff. The things occur in tandem. I feel bad about complaining about my situation when I’m in comparative luxury doing exactly what I want. Lots of people have more pleasant daily lives can’t do what I am doing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As someone also dealing with a crotchety old man, right now I am commenting from a hospital room while dad has dinner, you earned this break. Best self care ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So glad that you where able to get away and have sometime by yourself and to enjoy Richards play. No matter what happens when you get home you needed time to yourself to recharge. Have seen a couple videos from the Today show about taking care of parents and the stress that comes with that. The big thing they said is to take time for self and I am glad you have been able to get some time to yourself. Enjoy the rest of your time in London.


  7. I’m so glad you’ve taken the Armitage tonic and are having some much needed time to yourself and to re-charge. It may not be likely but perhaps your week apart may have a positive effect on your relationship with your dad. I hope so.


  8. This break is a very good thing for you and I’m so very glad you’re having it! I really really really hope the backlash won’t be too hard when you get back. Yes, you really need fo find a solution where you can be happy too! Fingers crossed that it will present itself soon. (((Hugs)))

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I want the full English breakfast three days in a row! I’m with you. Brunch is my favorite, but it’s the only time of day that I have no interest in cooking. That’s what I’d use a genie wish on – a gorgeous breakfast magically appearing every Saturday.


  10. I have to comment on the latter part of your post. Having been in this place myself, well certainly not as much as my twin sister who lived with our mother, but definitely went through all you share with us. I feel a great deal of empathy (is that the right word?), for you. It is a horrifying place to be in, you are now the parent. My twin sister had five other siblings to turn to to make the decision to place our mother in long-term care and our mother also agreed to do such. Mom is in a safe place, she is well looked after, people are on hand when she needs help, she eats regularly, gets her meds regularly. And my twin sister has her life to live again after 12 yrs, (that is when Dad died). Don’t be hard on yourself, you are doing all you can for your father, and he may never understand that but you will reach a place in your heart and mind when you know you were a good daughter. Take care, enjoy the rest of your trip.

    Liked by 1 person

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