When Is It Time To Quit?

I want to be loved, I wish someone would love me, I hope someone someday will love me.  But I guess those things are pretty intangible; without a real person in a real time and in a real place, hopes and desires are for indeterminate objects, for imaginary things.  When I’m interested in someone, I want them to love me, which in my case means I want them to treat me like I matter, that I’m important to them, that they care about me.

The therapist says I expect them to do this – even in the face of overwhelming evidence that, at least in this one case, the person I care about is incapable of doing this for me.  I don’t know that I expect them to do this, I thought to myself – I want them to do this, I hope they will see how much I want this and that they will give me this – but to say I expect them to do this doesn’t feel quite right.

For hope springs eternal, right?  In novitiate, in one of my spiritual guidance interviews with the novice masters, one of them told me that I seemed to be someone without hope.  And at that time, I said yes, you’re quite right – I wasn’t very hopeful about anything at that time.  I experienced the majority of my life as though I was invisible, that people either didn’t see or didn’t care about whether I was happy, or sad, or anything else.  I hung on to the master’s comment as if it were a life preserver – its immediate effect was that someone DID see me (even if they didn’t care about me) and that just maybe, as contradictory as it sounds, the way out my hopelessness was to be hopeful.

Doing that on my own was incredibly difficult – antidepressants like Prozac and later selective serotonin reuptake inhibiting prescriptions helped deal with the neurophysiological part of the hurdle.  Slowly but surely, a hopeless person was becoming hopeful in spite of their hopelessness, not unlike an overweight person loses weight in spite of being obese.  There are real physical and psychological barriers that stand in the way of getting better, feeling better.

So, right or wrong, I believe in the power of hope.  In the course of my life, I have hoped that, sooner or later, someone I loved would love me, I would become a teacher, I would become a priest, my mother would love me.  But when do you decide to say, “no, I’ve tried, and it’s just not working”?  When do you realize that you’ve only been fooling yourself, that it’s time to throw in the towel, that it’s time to quit?

A Bee and a Bus – Part One

Five mornings a week, I wait at a stop near my apartment building to catch the bus to my downtown job.  These are usually uneventful times—occasionally I will just miss a bus, the same occasions I really need to catch a bus so that I will not be late for work.  But most times, I am at the stop early enough to catch a bus well before needed, and I wait patiently with my fellow CTA travelers for our subsidized transport.

It was a mid-September morning, just as the Chicago weather was beginning to shift from a very pleasant Indian summer to an ever so slightly more brisk autumnal shade.  I was again waiting for the morning bus.  I had my headphones on, CD playing Elvis’s number one hits, when an overgrown bumblebee, made sluggish by the weather change, seemed to have decided that I should be his new best friend.  My brothers and sisters will tell you that I’ve never much cared to strike up any kind of relationship with insects that sting, and certainly not when they are as big as Kaiser rolls.

Without thinking I involuntarily swiped at the flying monster, not quite sure just what sort of bug wanted to snuggle up to me.  I regretted this almost the instant it occurred, for now as he flew right in my face, it became clear to me that I must have smacked him pretty good.  I was convinced he was now on a mission to end my very existence, even if he had to sacrifice his own to accomplish this.

Well, after running around the stop for a minute or so, with only one or two onlookers bemused by the event, salvation came in the form of an articulated bus.  Thankfully, the death bee had left me alone long enough so that I could board and put this miserable morning awakening behind me.  But of course, nothing occurs at random, all things happen for some reason.  [No philosopher ever escapes this assumption.]

Dad Surprised Me

It was after Mom died, and before Dad died, that I was riding in the car with Dad, where to now I cannot remember.  But we were going over some old philosophical ground, I think, chatting a bit about the importance of reason and logic in our lives, in his life as an electrical engineer, in my life as a philosopher.  Of course we loved logic and reason—this was part of our great European heritage.  We agreed that it seemed to be a perfectly Germanic preoccupation to be entranced by the virtues of organization, structure, order.

But I went on to say that it seemed to me that Polish people weren’t all that much different, that they too seemed to have a special gift for logic and order as among life’s higher values.  And here Dad really surprised me.  With more enthusiasm than I remembered about him in a long time, he robustly said, “Poles are LOVERS!”  And we both laughed.  I was really glad to hear him say this.  I really wish he had done this a whole lot more.  Maybe we were both finally in a place where it was okay to present the idea of love in all its connotations (eros as well as agape).

We didn’t tease any more out of this particular moment, but a more significant moment I cannot find.  It signaled to me what I suspected about my Dad and my Mom all my life, that at bottom, they were both sensual, sexual beings, where the physical was only the beginning of love’s power in their lives, in their family’s life.  Maybe the Church (that is, their beliefs about their Church) didn’t let them talk about this in any way that would be both good and holy, so they let their actions speak instead of words.  Until, of course, Dad surprised me.


I was born on a Friday at 4:35 PM in Detroit, Michigan.  My mom seemed to know more of the details and circumstances of some of the other kids’ births.    I do remember asking Mom what if anything she remembered about the day I was born.  Nothing really came to mind.  “What about the time of day?  Was I born in the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening?”  “I don’t really remember.”  Even seeing the time stated on the birth certificate, she said she still never would have even guessed it was at that time of day.

One of my earliest memories was brushing and combing Mom’s hair.  I guess I might have been four or five years old.  After the other kids had gone to school, she’d sit on the couch and had me sit on the top of the couch just behind her with a hairbrush.  She had some pretty thick black hair then – I think all I did was brush her hair from the front to the back of her head.  I don’t really remember talking with her at all – we might have, but I don’t remember.  I don’t know that I had any special feeling being with her brushing her hair then – but it was definitely one of the few times I ever had her all to myself, even if all I could do was stare at the back of her head.

Our house wasn’t all that big, especially with fourteen people living there.  The kitchen was maybe fifteen feet square (225 sq. ft.) – a good-sized kitchen.  The older brothers did a fairly extensive rehab of the joint in the mid 70’s or so – a nice update.  New cabinets, new sink, refrigerator moved from a corner to a wall.  If you pull up the house on Google Earth now, it’s just sad to see.  Maybe the pear and cherry trees are still in the back yard – it’s hard to tell.  Seven houses are left on the block – maybe half as many as there used to be.